NIGERIA’S Super Eagles may not be participating in the African Nations Cup come January after all as signs emerged yesterday that the Confederation of African Football (Caf) may call off the tournament in response to the renewed threat from Covid-19.
Already postponed twice, the 33rd Nations Cup was slated for next month in Cameroon, due to hold between January 9 and February 6. However, with the spread of the Omicron variety of the virus, which is considered African in origin because it was first reported in South Africa, the tournament is under threat as clubs are reluctant to release their players.
Several European clubs, especially English Premier League sides, had made it clear that they were not happy with releasing their players and asked Fifa to intervene in the matter. With pressure now mounting, Caf has begun engaging stakeholders and it could announce the decision to cancel the competition over the coming hours today.
While no official decision has been communicated, the reason for the cancellation is the organisational difficulties related to Covid-19 and its new Omicron variant. For instance, players playing their trade in Britain, who get called up for the tournament by their respective national teams, are expected to observe a quarantine upon their return to the UK, which would force the various clubs to be deprived of their services for a longer period.
Everton’s Alex Iwobi, Leicester City duo Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho, Watford’s Emmanuel Dennis and William Troost-Ekong and Brentford’s Frank Onyeka are the Nigerian internationals in the Premier League, who would have been affected by the rule. Similarly, Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun, and Calvin Bassey who play for Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Premiership, would also have been affected.
Initially scheduled for mid-2021, the Nations Cup was first shifted back to January 2021 due to climatic conditions before the coronavirus pandemic forced it to be moved to January 2022. Nigeria’s Super Eagles are among the 24 teams to have qualified for the tournament, drawn in Group D alongside Egypt, Sudan and Guinea-Bissau.