AFCON Qualifiers May Resume In November, But There Are Still Doubts

NEWS, Sports

Eyongeta Eyong

The Confederation of African Football has set November as the possible return of international football on the continent.

The 2021 AFCON qualifiers are scheduled to mark the big comeback, but, that will depend on authorities, across the continent, providing the final say.

The 2022 World Cup qualifiers are scheduled to begin in May next year and end in November.

Zimbabwe are in Group G with Ethiopia, Ghana and South Africa.

CAF has indicated they will be monitoring the coronavirus situation.

“The 40 teams in contention for the five slots for Qatar 2022 will commence the journey between 31 May and 15 June 2021 with the Day 1 and 2 matches,’’ CAF organisation said.

“From 30 August till 7 September, the Day 3 and 4 matches are expected to take place with Day 5 and 6 matches fixed for 4-12 October 2021.

“The play-off matches have been scheduled for 8-16 November 2021.

“Meanwhile, CAF is monitoring the situation closely and working with the relevant authorities with regards to hosting of the matches, and will make pronouncements accordingly in the event of developments that will affect playing a match at the designated venue.’’

However, complications remain and, as cricket has found out, a return to action for international teams isn’t easy.

This week, England women’s hopes of playing international cricket in a biosecure bubble were dealt a blow after South Africa informed the England and Wales Cricket Board they won’t be able to tour due to travel restrictions.

The English were due to play a tri-series against India and South Africa, which had been cleared by the International Cricket Council, but the two visiting sides won’t be able to travel.

When India pulled out, a bilateral series against South Africa in Derby, where England have been training, was pencilled in, but that is now off, too.

“This decision was taken due to the current international travel regulations in place for South African national teams,” said an ECB statement.

The ECB say they were committed to hosting international women’s cricket this summer and were speaking to boards about getting their teams over.

“We are immensely disappointed that we are not yet able to confirm fixtures for England Women this summer due to India and South Africa being unable to travel,” said Clare Connor, the ECB’s director of women’s cricket.

“We have been committed from the outset to deliver the same bio-secure standards for both men’s and women’s international cricket, an investment that included exclusive hotel use for teams, chartered flights and medical provisions.

“An ECB team, with support from the Incora County Ground, Derby, has created a dedicated behind closed doors environment to host all of our women’s internationals.

“Women’s and girls’ cricket is a huge part of the ECB strategy and despite the devastating impact of Covid-19, this ambition has not waned.

“We continue to explore all options to see England Women play competitively this summer.”

This could also play out across the continent in November as the final say, in allowing teams to enter other countries, lie in the authorities of the host nations.

According to CAF, the Warriors are expected to return to the international stage in November with back-to-back clashes against African champions Algeria for the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

The finals of the tournament have been moved to January 2022.

A new calendar recently unveiled by CAF show that Zimbabwe will now face the Desert Foxes between November 9 and November 17 this year.

“The CAF Emergency Committee has approved the resumption date for qualifiers of the Total Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021 and the group stage of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” the organisation said in a statement.

“A busy schedule awaits the participating teams with double-headers from November 2020 through to November 2021 in the battle for spots to the final tournament of the two competitions.

“The schedules for the two competitions have had to be revised in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, which halted many sporting activities across the continent and beyond, for some time.

“For Cameroon 2021, the qualifiers resume on 9-17 November 2020 with the Day 3 and 4 matches whilst the penultimate and ultimate matches take place on 22-30 March 2021.”

Algeria lead the group with six points while Zimbabwe are on second on four points after two rounds of matches.

According to the new schedule, Zimbabwe will conclude their 2021 AFCON qualifying campaign in March with a trip to Botswana and then Zambia between March 22-30.

The CAF ban on the Warriors matches being played in local stadia remains in place. Government, and the local authorities, have been working on the National Sports Stadium, and other stadia, to try and satisfy the CAF inspectors.

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