We all thought that the AFCON organisers had done the sensible thing when they moved the competition to the summer of 2019 in Egypt, but now for some crazy reason they have decided to reverse that decision now and in 2021 it is set to be held in January to Feb once again.
Of course we know it gets hot in Africa in the summer, but it’s not going to stop FIFA holding the World Cup in Qatar is it?
Can you imagine if Arsenal get themselves sorted by next season and we have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe scoring for fun and being in a challenging position for the Top Four, and then suddenly we could lose them both for up to six weeks bang in the middle of the season. This is outrageous!
It could be even worse for Liverpool, who could lose Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mane (Senegal) and Naby Keita (Guinea), and Klopp’s side will definitely be up at, or very near, the top of the table.
Mikel Arteta was unsurprisingly asked what he thought about the AFCON decision, and he sounded quite resigned to the fact. “Let’s see.” he said on Arsenal.com. “It’s something that we are talking with the club to figure out exactly the scenario we’re going to be looking at. It’s not only us, there are many other clubs involved but I don’t know. They never ask those questions to us so I’m assuming that we’ll have to accept whatever comes.”
This is also not a good decision for top players from Africa either because it could make them a lot less attractive to European sides and could stall their development. As Jurgen Klopp said on the BBC: “If we have to make a decision about bringing in a player, it is a massive one,”
“You know for four weeks you don’t have them. As a club you have to think about this. It doesn’t help African players.”
But the fact is that European clubs can do absolutely nothing about their top players going to AFCON, as Klopp went on to describe: “I couldn’t respect the Africa Cup of Nations more than I do because I like the competition and watched it a lot in the past. It’s a very interesting tournament.”
“But, it’s an obvious problem that you play a tournament in the middle of the season, although it makes more sense for Africa to play it in our winter when the weather is better for them – I get that.
“But we have absolutely no power – so if we did say ‘We don’t let him go’, the player is suspended.
“If a player is injured and cannot play for us we have to send him to Africa and they have a look and in one or two weeks they are back. Nowadays, it should not be like this.”
Right now, we are all moaning because we have lost Aubameyang for three weeks through suspension, but can you imagine losing him for up to 8 weeks next year, when you include the pre-tournament training and friendlies.
Okay it is not as crazy as playing the World Cup in Qatar, but AFCON will certainly affect us more as it is in the middle of the season…