Africa Cup of Nations organisers confirm players will be able to stay with their clubs until January 3 in a major boost to Premier League sides, with the rule over tomorrow’s release date relaxed out of ‘goodwill’
- The Africa Cup of Nations will kick off in Cameroon next month, on January 9
- A host of Premier League stars will leave their clubs to play at the showpiece
- They will now be able to join up with their countries later than initially planned
- CAF agreed to allow them to play fixtures between December 27 and January 3
Footballers heading to next month’s Africa Cup of Nations finals will be allowed to play for their clubs until January 3, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) said on Sunday.
Many were set to miss matches because of the rule that dictates clubs must release players 14 days before a continental championship or the World Cup.
But CAF has agreed to allow players whose clubs have matches between December 27 and January 3 to play them before joining up with their national squads for the Cup of Nations finals, which kick off in Cameroon on January 9.
Players heading to the Africa Cup of Nations will be able to stay at their clubs until January 3
That will come as a relief to English clubs who had been due to lose their African players by the official release date of December 27, although some had made individual arrangements for players to stay with them for as long as possible before the start of the tournament.
‘This decision is taken in the spirit of goodwill and solidarity with the affected clubs in recognition of the fact that they, like all members of the football community, have been adversely affected by the onset of the COVID pandemic,’ said a FIFA letter sent on Sunday to the World Leagues Forum and the European Leagues grouping.
Both organisations have been critical of the timing of the Cup of Nations in the middle of the club season in Europe, where the majority of players involved the tournament play their club football.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is one of the biggest names in the top-flight to play at the AFCON
But FIFA said that CAF had decided to offer relief to clubs.
‘It is also assumed that a spirit of mutual cooperation remains between CAF and all relevant stakeholders in this regard, including related to the release of players and the provision of sporting exemptions to travel and quarantine restrictions if required in the future,’ added the letter from FIFA deputy general secretary Mattias Grafstrom.
The timing of the Cup of Nations finals has long been a bone of contention for club managers, and future tournaments are scheduled to played in mid-year.
However, the relaxing of the guidelines over when players can join up with their countries will be a welcome boost to Premier League teams, including Liverpool and Chelsea. Both title contenders are set to play on January 2.
Jurgen Klopp hoped his Liverpool players would be able to join their countries at a later date
Initially, a FIFA spokesperson said in October that the first release day was applicable for all teams, regardless of their start date.
Earlier this month, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insisted he was hopeful that the departure of his players would be delayed until later into their hectic festive period.
Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita will all take part at the tournament.
Arsenal are braced to be without several players, including Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pepe, Mohamed Elneny and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Mohamed Salah (centre) will be a huge miss for the Reds when he joins up with Egypt shortly
Chelsea and City will lose Edouard Mendy and Riyad Mahrez respectively, while Watford could be forced to play without the injured Ismaila Sarr.
Leicester are set to bid a temporary farewell to four players, including Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Ndidi, and Crystal Palace will play without Wilfried Zaha.
Manchester United are set to lose Eric Bailly and Amad Diallo, while Tottenham do not have any players who could be called up for the competition.
Sportsmail has reported that Premier League clubs are increasingly concerned about sending their players to the tournament, due to Covid concerns.
Premier League clubs have expressed concerns for their players’ safety at the tournament
Top-flight sides have been keen for guarantees around safety protocols, and want assurances there won’t be extra quarantine measures when their stars return.
Disquiet has grown quickly, with one club admitting they are ‘concerned’.
Recently, the European Clubs’ Association wrote to FIFA to raise their fears over rising Omicron cases and travel restrictions brought in by governments.
AFCON organisers have said that supporters will have to be double-vaccinated to attend games, and insisted the competition will take place as planned.
Premier League players expected to play at AFCON
- Thomas Partey (Ghana)
- Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)
- Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)
- Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)
- Mahmoud Trezeguet (Egypt)
- Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso)
- Marvelous Nakamba (Zimbabwe)
- Julian Jeanvier (Guinea)
- Frank Onyeka (Nigeria)
- Tariqe Fosu-Henry (Ghana)
- Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast)
- Edouard Mendy (Senegal)
- Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)
- Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal)
- Jeffrey Schlupp (Ghana)
- Jordan Ayew (Ghana)
- Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)
- Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)
- Jean-Philippe Gbamin (Ivory Coast)
- Daniel Amartey (Ghana)
- Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria)
- Nampalys Mendy (Senegal)
- Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)
- Mo Salah (Egypt)
- Naby Keita (Guinea)
- Sadio Mane (Senegal)
- Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast)
- Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)
- Moussa Djenepo (Mali)
- Mohammed Salisu (Ghana)
- Adam Masina (Morocco)
- Emmanuel Dennis (Nigeria)
- Ismaila Sarr (Senegal)
- Peter Etebo (Nigeria)
- William Troost-Ekong (Nigeria)
- Romain Saiss (Morocco)
- Willy Boly (Ivory Coast)