AFCON Gets Bigger and Better – Amaju Pinnick Say it’s All About Positioning African Football

CAF President .Ahmad Ahmad, has moved swiftly to fulfill the promises made ahead of March’s elections, one of them is to take a closer look at the Africa Cup of Nations calendar and to find ways of expanding the revenue base of the Confederation of African Football and its member associations.

These issues, among many others, have been discussed this week at the Caf Symposium in Rabat, Morocco, where the biggest changes to African football in decades would be ratified. By the time the continent’s football chiefs arise from the Extra-Ordinary General Assembly on Friday, we might have a 24-team Afcon, a shift from January/February to June/July and a reworking of the majority of the continent’s domestic football calendars to mirror the European season of August to May.

Is this change really good for African football?
It is about more money, which is why is Caf making all these changes. Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick said: “It will increase revenue for Caf and we can triple our income. It will also force more infrastructure development,” a tad bit too optimistic even as many countries, including Nigeria, have cut down spending on sport and other leisure activities due to a fall in oil prices amidst an economic recession.

Cameroon is already falling behind schedule on its plan to deliver infrastructure for the 2019 Afcon, with talk that Morocco could step in after their 2015 plans were thrown overboard by the Ebola fever scare that gripped the continent.

But a summer tournament will make African players more attractive to European clubs who will no longer worry about losing their stars for upwards of six weeks every two years in the middle of hot campaigns.

There has been special joy among Liverpool fans who saw their Premier League title chase falter due to the going away of Sadio Mane last January. The Kops have also added the Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah to their ranks this transfer window, so there is truly cause for joy.

The Rational Behind the Changes
One cannot fault the thinking that has gone into these deliberations. The new guys at the helm of Caf are trying to implement populist ideas that have been bandied around African football for years but stone-walled by former president Issa Hayatou.

The Cameroonian tried to protect the continent with his resoluteness about the tournament remaining in January, a time when many sub-Saharan African countries enjoy the dry weather as against the middle of the year when the heavens unleash their reservoirs upon the land, turning football matches into water polo.

Still, Africa needs to align itself with the world of football as long as the bulk of its star footballers play in European leagues. It is not good to jeopardise the careers of these boys who risk losing their places in their clubs every time they come to defend their countries’ colours at the Afcon.

However, one of the snags has to be the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams. This brings with it massive economic and infrastructure requirements – stadia, hotels, transportation – that many countries on the continent will not be able to afford.

It will bring about infrastructure development and African countries more preparedness to host bigger competitions like the world cup
So co-hosting could be the future for a 24-team event.

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