Tuesday Oct 4, 2022
Tuesday Oct 4, 2022

African Cup: Players can play till Jan 3


Nepalnews
2021 Dec 27, 14:40,
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah controls the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Newcastle United at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. Photo: AP

European clubs were handed a boost when they were allowed to delay the release of players to African Cup of Nations squads until the week the tournament begins after a request from domestic leagues was accepted by the Confederation of African Football.

FIFA regulations had mandated players be released this Monday, extending the time they would be missing from games in European competitions like the Premier League that play across the Christmas and New Year period and throughout the African Cup.

Clubs can now keep players for matches until January 3. The 24-nation African Cup opens on Jan. 9 at the Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé, Cameroon, with the final on Feb. 6.

Premier League clubs will have African Cup-bound players available for two additional matches. The final game now before releasing players sees a clash of title chasers on Jan. 2 with Liverpool — with Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Naby Keita (Guinea) and Sadio Mané (Senegal) in the squad — playing away at Chelsea which has Edouard Mendy (Senegal) in goal. Premier League leader Manchester City will be losing Riyad Mahrez, its top scorer with 12 goals in all competitions, to Algeria’s title defense.

Europe would prefer the African Cup of Nations was played in its summer when other continental championships like the Euros are held to avoid disrupting the domestic leagues.

Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez in action during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Leeds United at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Photo: AP
Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez in action during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Leeds United at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Photo: AP

Despite the tone of European resistance to the tournament in recent correspondence, FIFA deputy secretary general Mattias Grafström on Saturday confirmed the easing of player release timings as a “commitment of solidarity” to organizations including the World Leagues Forum, European Leagues and European Club Association in a letter seen by The Associated Press.

“CAF has decided that for those players who have official club matches between the 27 December 2021 and 3 January 2022, the participating member associations in question are to be directed that these players may remain with their clubs to participate in these matches and be released after the last match during this period,” Grafström wrote.

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