Starting in 2019, the number of participating countries in Africa’s biggest soccer event, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), will increase to 24 national teams from the traditional 16 teams. The competition has also been moved from January – February to June – July. Though a recommendation to play the biennial soccer event only once in four years was rejected.
The decisions were rubber stamped following recommendations by the continent’s leading football executives and luminaries at a conference hosted by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in Morocco.
This could pose a major problem to many African countries logistically as most of them cannot afford to host 24 soccer teams due to facilities deficit. The same problem is facing Cameroon as they were preparing for 16 teams. There are already concerns that Cameroon are behind schedule in its stadium construction plans and that they could have been forced to deny those claims.
CAF acknowledges the issue and they are considering hosting the AFCON final or the entire tournament outside the continent with the United States, Qatar and China listed as possible hosts. They would do this by also inviting “three or four” foreign national teams to play in the event.
This could though be a welcoming news for European clubs as it used to cause disputes as the clubs had to release its players in the middle of a season. Earlier this year, several players turned down their national team’s invitation, choosing instead to remain with their clubs.
Other stakeholders who would welcome the news are underdog countries who hardly feature in the tournament like our very own Harambee starts who last featured in the tournament in 2004.