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Football: the African Cup of Nations, eternal stone in the shoes of European clubs

Until a few days before the kick-off, the Covid-19 pandemic and the spread of the Omicron variant threatened the holding of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) in Cameroon (from January 9 to February 6) . In this uncertain context, the big European clubs threatened not to release their players summoned for the 33e edition of the competition.

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In a letter to the International Football Federation (FIFA) in mid-December, the European Club Association (ECA) expressed concern about the lack of a health protocol: “To our knowledge, the African Football Confederation has not yet made public a suitable medical and operational protocol for the CAN tournament, in the absence of which the clubs will not be able to release their players for the tournament” , wrote the body headed by Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, the president of PSG.

Relaxed rules

Olympique Lyonnais (OL), one of the sixteen founding members of the ECA, saw three of its players fly to Africa: “When we received the summons for the selections at the end of December, we had no indication of compliance with a health protocol, says Vincent Ponsot, general manager of OL football. The ECA then pushed with the African Football Confederation [regroupant les fédérations nationales de football du continent], which allowed us to know the conditions under which our players were going to be accommodated. “ The leaders of the European clubs pointed out above all the risk of an absence of the internationals longer than the period of availability envisaged, because of the quarantines and movement restrictions linked in particular to the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Since 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic, FIFA relaxed the rules for the release of internationals: clubs can retain their players if quarantine of at least five days is mandatory from arrival at the place where the national team match is supposed to be played of the athlete, or at the place of the latter’s club on his return.

Read also CAN 2022: Covid-19 disrupts the preparation of many teams

Still Nigeria coach at the beginning of December – he has since been dismissed from his post – Gernot Rohr recounts the preparation for his selection’s trip to Cape Verde on September 7, 2021: “Seven of our UK players were unable to make it to Cape Verde, which was on the UK government’s Covid-19 red list. They should have done a ten-day quarantine when returning to their club, which was too restrictive. “

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