The Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, could be subjected to some radical changes in the days ahead, feelers from the recent meeting by the continent’s football ruling body suggest.
Some of the changes being considered include moving the continent’s flagship football event away from the traditional January kick-off period to June or July.
The Nations Cup’s timing in January and February has consistently been labelled as unsuitable in Europe, where many of African stars play.
Another innovation also being considered is expanding the biennial finals to accommodate 24 teams instead of the present 16-team format.
“That is the first thing to talk about – we can’t get away from it,” said Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Ahmad Ahmad.
“We have already had a lot of suggestions,” he added in his opening address at a two-day symposium on the continental game’s future in Morocco.
An unprecedented number of players turned down call-ups for this year’s tournament in Gabon to stay with their clubs.
This included seven Cameroonians who refused to turn out for the team that eventually won the title.
Every two years, a club-versus-country row breaks out as European clubs complain about losing players during a crucial stage of the season to the Nations Cup.
Under previous president, Issa Hayatou, CAF argued that the weather in many parts of Africa meant the tournament had to be staged at the start of the year.
Hayatou consistently rejected suggestions of a move to June, saying the weather then was too hot in northern Africa, too wet in the west and centre and too cold in the south.
The present CAF president also wants to review rules on hosting the finals, which are proving increasingly prohibitive and reducing the number of potential candidates.
He has already suggested that co-hosting would allow CAF consider proposals to increase the number of teams at the finals to 24.
Many are not surprised with the wholesale changes that may greet African football in the days ahead as Ahmad promised a blanket review of the African game when he successfully stood for the CAF presidency in March.
“Never before has something like this been organised in Africa,” he told the assembled 200 delegates prior to the start of a series of workshops
“We are here for a historic chapter and to effect great changes. These are decisions that will determine the future of our game.
“My ambition is to effect profound transformation of CAF and I’m personally determined to see it through with all the members,” Ahmad said in his opening address.
In addition to the FA presidents, secretary generals and coaches of each African nation, a host of former stars have also been invited to give their views – as per Ahmad’s election manifesto.
The invited include Jay-Jay Okocha of Nigeria, Cameroonians Samuel Eto’o, Geremi and Joseph-Antoine Bell, Hossam Hassan of Egypt, Rabah Madjer of Algeria and Morocco’s Badou Zaki.
Leading national coaches, DR Congo’s Florent Ibenge, Herve Renard of Morocco and African veteran Claude LeRoy, the Frenchman who currently leads Togo, have also been asked.
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