Europe’s top clubs are threatening not to release players for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon over fears surrounding its Covid-19 health protocol.
The European Club Association, which represents leading
clubs across the continent, made its concerns known to FIFA in a letter seen by
“With regards to applicable protocols, as far as we are
aware, CAF (the Confederation of African football) has not yet made available a
suitable medical and operational protocol for the AFCON tournament, in the
absence of which clubs will not be able to release players for the
tournament,” the ECA told football’s world governing body.
The Cup of Nations, which was already postponed last year
due to the health crisis, is due to start in Cameroon on January 9 and run
until February 6.
Many of Africa’s leading players are based at clubs in
Europe, including Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez of
Manchester City, Achraf Hakimi and Idrissa Gana Gueye of Paris Saint-Germain.
The ECA also raised concerns about the danger of players
being unavailable for even longer periods due to the potential for travel
restrictions or mandatory quarantine being introduced, in particular in
relation to the emerging threat posed by the Omicron variant of the
According to FIFA’s rules for the release of players for
international duty during the pandemic, clubs can retain players if “there
is a mandatory quarantine of at least five days on arrival” in the place
“where a national team match is supposed to take place” or when the
player returns to his club.
Contacted by AFP, a senior official in the Cameroonian
Football Federation (Fecafoot) dismissed any suggestion the tournament may be
called off as “fake news”.