In a statement issued on Friday, March 13, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced that the qualifying matches for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations had been postponed indefinitely to avoid the risk of players, match officials, coaching staff, sponsors, and broadcasters being infected with the COVID-19 virus. In response to the spread of the virus in Africa, numerous countries have been locking down their borders, instituting quarantine measures, and restricting public gatherings. Several football clubs have even decided independently not to release players for international matches. CAF clarified a few days later that inter-club competitions would continue.
Why It Matters
Football is one of the most popular sports in Africa, and marquee players from the continent are highly sought-after by Europe’s wealthy, prestigious clubs. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no longer an option to hold large sporting events, both in the interest of public safety and because many top-tier clubs feature a multinational squad, which makes it harder to train and play matches as travel restrictions are tightened. The upside of this cancellation is that it impresses on football fans the gravity of the situation and the value of social distancing, reducing contact between people, to stop or slow down the spread of COVID-19.
In addition, following the announcement by UEFA that the EURO 2020 Tournament was is being postponed, many anticipated other sporting bodies to follow.