New- look Africa Cup of Nations and
CAF Champions League competitions
could emerge this week from
discussions in Morocco that will
include FIFA president Gianni
Infantino.
A two- day CAF symposium begins
Tuesday in Rabat and officials,
coaches and former stars have been
tasked with plotting the future of the
popular sport in the continent.
On Friday, a CAF executive committee
meeting will precede an extraordinary
general assembly involving the 55
member associations , where changes
could be adopted.
Former stars invited include Joseph -
Antoine Bell of Cameroon, Hossam
Hassan of Egypt , Rabah Madjer of
Algeria , Austin “ Jay Jay ” Okocha of
Nigeria and Badou Zaki of Morocco .
Leading national coaches Florent
Ibenge of the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Herve Renard of Morocco and
Claude le Roy of Togo are also expected
to attend .
When Malagasy Ahmad Ahmad scored
a shock CAF presidential triumph over
long - serving Cameroonian Issa
Hayatou last March, he vowed to
thoroughly review African football .
The Morocco gathering is the
fulfilment of that promise with the
timing, frequency and number of
qualifiers in the Cup of Nations likely
to be among the hottest topics.
Hosting the biennial tournament in
January and February has long been a
source of frustration for European
clubs, especially in England and
France, where many Africans play .
Hayatou consistently rejected
suggestions of a move to June , saying
the weather then was too hot in
northern Africa , too wet in the west
and centre and too cold in the south.
But his view was as much about not
bowing to pressure from Europe as
climatic conditions because African
national teams and clubs play
regularly during June without adverse
effects .
Ahmad appears more of a “ team
player” than his my - way - or- the -
highway predecessor , and what
happened to eventual champions
Cameroon before the 2017 Nations Cup
has swayed his mind toward change .
Liverpool defender Joel Matip was
among six “ Indomitable Lions ” who
refused to be considered, saying their
club careers were more important
than national duty .
If European clubs had their way , the
Cup of Nations would be held in mid -
year only every four years . They may
well get their wish on timing, but not
on frequency .
The Cup of Nations is much more than
a football tournament with new stadia ,
roads and other infrastructure among
the benefits to the host nation, so the
two- year cycle is set to stay.
What is less certain is how many
teams will compete in future editions
with some officials favouring an
increase from 16 teams to 24 , bringing
it in line with the Euro Championship.
The advantage would be more teams
exposed to top- level competition and
the disadvantage a dilution of the
qualifying competition with virtually
one in every two teams qualifying .
Hosting could also become more
restrictive as six stadiums would be
needed instead of four , drastically
reducing the number of countries who
could stage the tournament .
Were the next finals in 2019 to be a
24 - team affair , an already- behind -
schedule Cameroon could be forced to
pull out, with Algeria and Morocco
reportedly interested in taking over .
Some officials believe the best clubs,
mostly from the north , should
automatically qualify for the 16 - team
Champions League group stage .
Currently, they get preliminary round
byes, then play a home - and - away tie ,
sometimes with unexpected
consequences .
Five- time champions TP Mazembe of
the Democratic Republic of Congo were
stunned in the round of 32 this year,
losing on away goals to CAPS United of
Zimbabwe.
It meant demotion to the secondary
CAF Confederation Cup for the
“ Ravens” , reducing their first- prize
earning potential from $ 2 .5 million
(2 .2 million euros) to $ 1 . 25 million .
Ahmad favours zonal qualifying for
the three age - limit Cup of Nations —
U17 , U20 , U23 — to curb travel time
and costs .
This format is used for the African
Nations Championship , a national
team competition exclusively for
footballers who play in their country
of birth .
AFP

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