How will Coronavirus impact African football?

Science is based on theory, facts, and hypotheses. It’s why when you have an equation, there is an assumed end product. These equations are an effect of reactions of chemicals mostly birthing solutions with solutes and solvents. However, what happens when the reactions refuse to stop?  A chain reaction…

A chain reaction is a sequence of events where a reactive product or by-product causes additional reactions to take place. In a chain reaction, positive feedbacks lead to a self-amplifying chain of events.

Currently, we find ourselves in a similar scenario with a virus that has crippled everyday life, halted regular activities and forced mankind to its’ knees. Sport has been the biggest sufferer in the pandemic with countless events postponed and what looked to be a promising year now seems bleak and glum.

Major football events as Euro 2020, Copa America 2020 and Tokyo 2020 have all been postponed to 2021, a daunting eighteen months after the pandemic. The reasons for the postponements emanate from the wait to finish the 2019/20 season, currently in limbo. The European calendar will need a massive readjustment once football is safe to return.

It is herein the problem lies for African football. Home to 1.3 billion people, the motherland boasts a seventh of the world’s population, and a huge chunk of players plying their trade in Europe. If she doesn’t look after her children, there could be massive problems.

CAF did right to suspend her competitions in the light of the pandemic, going as far as postponing the CHAN indefinitely. However, one must remember that the scheduling of football between now and 2023, when normalcy will most likely be restored, would generate massive strain on legs of footballers.

The African Cup of Nations was reverted to January by CAF after one summer edition in Egypt last year. The reason for the rescheduling was due to the fact that in Cameroon the rains would be in full flow at that point. The plan left several questions unanswered, a slap in the face by the Ahmad administration and indicating a large inconsistency in decision making. Decisions would need to be made again, this time considering the players. The AFCON is a showcase of Africa’s best. Are CAF ready for what would be a club-country war that would emerge in December when European clubs would be in the thick of a crammed season schedule? Maybe not. Will some players be ready to risk the jetlag and a break in rhythm in their football in the midst of a season where clubs would be extremely measured in recruiting as they hope to recoup losses from the COVID pandemic?

CAF had better be ready to wade in. A summer AFCON could be the eventual solution with the CHAN moved to January 2021, filling the vacuum in the calendar left by the AFCON. The CHAN cannot take place this summer and won’t be held in the fall either, with the African Women Championship still to come sometime in that span. It’s a dangerous sport, but CAF’s resolve will be fully tested after this pandemic.

There have been one too many gaffes and the 2019/20 CAF competitions will be completed, perhaps in July, if its safe to play again, and hopefully there wont be a repeat of last year’s Esperance-WAC scenario. Then would be time to rejig the calendar. Seasons in major countries like South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco and others will follow the European format that will end in August/early September. By default, this means the CHAN cannot hold until after that is concluded. It is impossible to cancel a CHAN that has teams already grouped. Failure to have CHAN 2020 by January 2021, throws CHAN 2022 off balance due to the preparations of many countries for the World Cup in Qatar, with Qualifying ties for AFCON 23 in Ivory Coast still to be in the mix. Another soft reminder that any hopes of AFCON 2023 in January have also been jeopardized with the Winter World Cup in the Middle East.

Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa share the same weather and climate if anything is to go by. Rather than indulge the AFCON 2021 LOC, The CAF hierarchy should put them to the test of an extra period to make surfaces are not only good enough for playing, but also ensuring fan experiences are better with alternate covering sources for arenas especially on Matchday. For now, the rains are the least of our problems.