By Terry Madyauta
THE Africa Cup Of Nations (Afcon) finals slated for Cameroon next month are in danger of being shelved owing to the spiralling Omicron COVID-19 variant worldwide.
Although, there has been no official communication to that effect, it has been reported that some England-based clubs are already considering refusing to release their players for the tournament that is due to begin on January 9.
Twenty Four days remain till the first game of the tournament, but reports by France’s RMC Sport, have cast doubts over the possibility of the tournament taking place.
According to the report, a number of English Premier League teams, among them Liverpool, are delaying to confirm release of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.
The report says that a CAF meeting held yesterday, deliberated on the matter although no consensus was reached.
This edition of the tournament was postponed last year due to the same reason and it could prove costly if it is pushed back again, with almost everything including television rights already set. Around 40 Premier League players are expected to join up with their national sides after the Boxing Day fixtures, though some clubs had been making efforts to delay their release.
Zimbabwe midfielder Marvellous Nakamba is, however, set to miss this tournament after sustaining a knee injury on Tuesday.
“The African players called up by their selection should . . . undergo a quarantine on their return to the United Kingdom, which would, therefore, deprive the clubs of their players for a longer period,” the publication said.
The Premier League recently confirmed a return to emergency measures after 42 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the highest weekly tally since the competition began regular testing.
Several matches have already been affected, including the match between Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton & Hove Albion, with Manchester United’s trip to Brentford also postponed to a later date.
The United Kingdom has, however, removed southern African countries from its red list.
Other reports yesterday poured cold water on the prospects of a further postponement of the finals.
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