Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki believes that unless the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations resume in September, there is no way the finals can be played as scheduled in January/February next year.
Just two rounds of qualifiers have been played, with a further four to come, but dates in March and June have already been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The next qualifiers are set for September, but those are in doubt due to bans on international travel, which is complicated by the fact that many players will be returning to the continent from clubs in Europe.
“If we can’t play the qualifiers in September, then I don’t see how will we have the tournament in January,” Ntseki was quoted by SAFA. “In my view, the Afcon won’t be played in January and could be moved to June – it’s original date – and this will now affect Europe-based players as their clubs may refuse to release them, and then we have the debate all over again of Club v Country.”
The Nations Cup situation is complicated further by the need to get the qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup under way, which were due to start later this year as well.
“The way I see it, the remaining four Afcon matches will need two Fifa weeks – even if it’s back to back, provided the clubs agree. The greatest challenge is that the coronavirus affects each country differently – which makes dealing with it all the more difficult in terms of returning to the field.
“If there is no play this year, then we may have to use March or April to complete the remaining matches and have the tournament in June – but Fifa has to provide leadership in that regard as they also need dates for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.”
Ntseki is worried about the heavy load for players, who will be under pressure at their clubs as well with a tight fixture list.
“Depending on how many matches are played, this may put a lot of strain on the players, as they also have to try and cover the backlog at club level.
“There will be a massive workload on players, which will lead to injuries – bearing in mind that they are only going back to training now after two months of inactivity – hence the five subs rule will be key to avoid fatigue.
“Having said that, it is a question of playing the wait and see game. We know we have challenges, and we are fully aware of them but we have stay positive.
“The start of leagues around the world gives hope to both CAF and Fifa.”