The Confederation of African Football Executive Committee on Tuesday announced the postponement of the 2021 African Nations Championship by one year.
The decision was reached after the committee met via video-conference to discuss the future of competitions and other related issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After consultation with stakeholders and taking into consideration the current global situation, the tournament has been rescheduled for January 2022. The date for the final tournament and the remaining matches of the qualifiers will be communicated in due course,” the football body said in a statement.
CANDIIDONLINE gathered that in the first edition of AFCON in 1957 there were only three participating nations: Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. South Africa was originally scheduled to compete, but were disqualified due to the apartheid policies of the government then in power.
Since then the tournament has grown greatly, making it necessary to hold a qualifying tournament. The number of participants in the final tournament reached 16 in 1998 (16 teams were to compete in 1996 but Nigeria withdrew, reducing the field to 15, and the same happened with Togo’s withdrawal in 2010), and until 2017, the format had been unchanged, with the sixteen teams being drawn into four groups of four teams each, with the top two teams of each group advancing to a “knock-out” stage.
On 20 July 2017, the Africa Cup of Nations was moved from January to June and expanded from 16 to 24 teams.
Egypt is the most successful nation in the cup’s history, winning the tournament with a record of seven times (including when Egypt was known as the United Arab Republic between 1958 and 1961). Three different trophies have been awarded during the tournament’s history, with Ghana and Cameroon winning the first two versions to keep after each of them won a tournament three times.
The current trophy was first awarded in 2002 and with Egypt winning it indefinitely after winning their unprecedented third consecutive title in 2010.
As of 2013, the tournament was switched to being held in odd-numbered years so as not to clash with the FIFA World Cup.
It also meant there were two tournaments within twelve months in January 2012 (co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea) and January 2013 (hosted by South Africa). The change of FIFA Confederations Cup from a biennial to a quadrennial tournament and the switching of the Africa Cup of Nations from even to odd-number years, meant that some previous Africa Cup of Nations champions such as Egypt, Zambia, and Ivory Coast (winners of the 2010, 2012, and 2015 tournaments respectively) were deprived from participating in the Confederations Cup tournament.
In 2011, Morocco won the bid to host the 2015 edition and Libya won the right to host the 2013 tournament, but the 2011 Libyan civil war prompted Libya and South Africa to trade years, with South Africa hosting in 2013 and Libya hosting in 2017. Ongoing fighting in Libya ultimately prompted CAF to move the 2017 tournament to Gabon.
In 2012, Zambia won the final after a penalty shootout against Ivory Coast. This drew increased media attention since the match took place in Gabon, only a few hundred meters from the crash site of the 1993 air disaster of their national team. The 2013 tournament was won by Nigeria, beating first time finalists Burkina Faso.
In 2014–15, the West African Ebola virus epidemic disrupted the tournament. All football activities in Liberia were suspended and the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in Monrovia was converted into an Ebola treatment unit. The 2015 Africa Cup of Nations was scheduled to be held in Morocco, but they refused to hold the tournament on the allotted dates due to concerns of the Ebola outbreak, so it was moved to Equatorial Guinea.
In 2020, match days 3 and 4 of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, which was slated from 25 to 30 March 2020 were postponed. This was due to the COVID-19 pandemic.