AIPS Urges CAF President to Resist FIFA and UEFA Pressure on AFCON Dates

The International Sports Press Association (AIPS/Africa) has issued an open letter to CAF President Patrice Motsepe, urging him to stand firm against pressure from FIFA and UEFA to change the dates of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). The letter dated July 8, 2024 which The Hilltop Mail Community Online Newspaper got a copy, highlights significant challenges posed by international scheduling conflicts and emphasizes the importance of maintaining AFCON's current schedule for the development of African football.

CAF President Patrice Motsepe has recently faced scrutiny for his reluctance to confirm the dates for the next AFCON, scheduled for 2025. 

“The focus for all of us now is Ivory Coast,” Motsepe stated at a press conference in Abidjan during the 2023 AFCON. The tournament, which usually takes place every two years, was delayed by six months due to concerns over the rainy season in West Africa. However, the 2025 edition in Morocco presents further complications.

Holding the tournament in January and February poses scheduling conflicts with the qualifying matches for the 2026 World Cup, while staging it in June and July would clash with FIFA’s expanded Club World Cup in North America. The Moroccan Football Federation has suggested a "summer 2025" timeline, but this creates additional challenges. 

"There are a lot of competing events at the same time but we are confident that…it is indeed going to be around that time,” Motsepe said, noting the necessity to balance AFCON with other international competitions.

In their letter, AIPS/Africa praised Motsepe for his exceptional leadership in rescuing CAF from a financial crisis, highlighting his efforts since March 12, 2021. At that time, CAF faced an annual deficit nearing 10 million US dollars. Motsepe’s managerial acumen, coupled with a 10 million US dollar donation from his foundation to support the African School Football Championship, has set CAF on a path to financial stability. 

“Your determination to make CAF competitive and autonomous is therefore unambiguous,” AIPS/Africa President Abdoulaye Thiam wrote.

However, the letter expressed grave concerns over the scheduling uncertainties surrounding AFCON. AIPS/Africa pointed out that recurring conflicts with UEFA’s Nations League and FIFA’s new competitions have complicated the scheduling of AFCON, making it difficult for African teams to compete against European counterparts. 
“Recurring scheduling problems have made CAF a victim of collateral damage from the 'war' between UEFA and FIFA,” the letter stated.

CAF's decision to shift AFCON from even-numbered years to odd-numbered years was intended to avoid conflicts with the World Cup and to address the demands of African players who face exhaustion from overlapping competitions. This shift aims to improve team performance and ensure player well-being. 

“This change had the merit of settling the age-old question of whether African stars would be able to take part in the AFCON,” Thiam emphasized.

AIPS/Africa reiterated the critical importance of maintaining the biennial frequency of AFCON, which has been instrumental in developing sports infrastructure across Africa. The organization urged CAF to uphold this tradition despite external pressures. 

“It is therefore easy to understand Mr. President, why the period and frequency of the African Cup of Nations seems non-negotiable, as they contribute immensely to the development of Football in our continent,” Thiam asserted.

The letter called on CAF to protect African football competitions from extinction and ensure their inclusion in the international calendar. AIPS/Africa emphasized the need for CAF to use its influence with 54 Member Associations within FIFA to advocate for African football’s interests. 

“It is expected from CAF leaders to ensure respect for African Football which is full of great administrators and players alike,”  Thiam stated.

AIPS/Africa also acknowledged the pivotal role of African heads of state and the African Union in supporting the development of youth and sports, particularly football. The letter highlighted contributions from notable figures such as Félix Tshisekedi, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, Julius Maada Bio, Paul Kagame, George Weah, and Macky Sall. 

“We cannot share our concerns with you, Mr. President, without recalling the central role played by our Heads of States, the African Union and their commitment to the development of youth, sport and Football in particular,” the letter concluded.

AIPS/Africa leadership has appealed to President Motsepe to continue his principled leadership, invoking the legacy of Nelson Mandela as a guiding inspiration. 

“Mr. President, you claim to be a disciple of Nelson Mandela and a well-respected man. So do kindly refuse and remain our inspiration than anything else,” Thiam urged.

By Bakah Derick 
Tel: 6 94 71 85 77 

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