There’s hardly any time for teams to celebrate or evaluate their performance at the 32nd edition of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as the qualifications for the 33rd edition is to start within a couple of months. The draw for the qualifiers was conducted in Cairo on the sidelines of the African Football Confederation (CAF) General Assembly, a day before the final game which saw Algeria beat Senegal 1-0 for its second AFCON title.
The one-month-long tournament in Egypt saw 52 matches being played, 174 yellow cards, five red cards, 943 total shots, 102 goals, 218 saves, eight penalties and the top scorer netting five goals.
The group phase of the 2021 qualifiers will be preceded by a preliminary round involving eight teams determined by the last FIFA rankings. After that, the winners of the four matches will head into the group phase. The 48 teams will be divided into 12 groups of four teams each and the top two sides from each group will earn a ticket to the 2021 showpiece in Cameroon.
According to the 2021 qualification draw, the teams were placed as follows:
Group A: Mali, Guinea, Namibia, Liberia/Chad
Group B: Burkina Faso, Uganda, Malawi, South Sudan/Seychelles
Group C: Ghana, South Africa, Sudan, Mauritius/Sao Tome
Group D: DR Congo, Gabon, Angola, Djibouti v Gambia
Group E: Morocco, Mauritania, CAR, Burundi
Group F: Cameroon, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Rwanda
Group G: Egypt, Kenya, Togo, Comoros
Group H: Algeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana
Group I: Senegal, Congo, Guinea Bissau, Eswatini
Group J: Tunisia, Libya, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea
Group K: Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Madagascar, Ethiopia
Group L: Nigeria, Benin, Sierra Leone, Lesotho
According to Egyptian football experts, the Pharaohs have an easy start as they were drawn with Kenya, Togo and the Comoros. However, there is the immediate need of appointing a new coach to lead the Pharaohs, replacing Javier Aguirre who was sacked following Egypt’s AFCON exit from the round of 16 after losing 1-0 to South Africa.
In addition, with the resignation of the president of the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) Hani Abu Rida and his eight board members, the EFA now needs an official body or board to select a coach, medical and administrative staff. So far, the EFA is currently being run by its executive director Tharwat Sweilam. The EFA general assembly needs time to call for an urgent meeting in order to decide whether it would hold elections within two months as the timetable dictates, or select an interim committee that would run the association for a year until the end of the term in September 2020.
African clubs are also looking forward to interclub competitions whose preliminary draw was conducted on Sunday at the home of CAF in Cairo.
The fixtures for the 2019-20 Total CAF Champions League and Total CAF Confederation Cup have been released. The preliminary rounds are to be held over two rounds. The first round of the CAF Champions League is scheduled to take place between 9-25 August, while the second round will kick off between 13-29 September. Altogether 61 teams are taking part in the preliminary round of the Champions League.
The CAF Confederation Cup sees the participation of 53 teams with the first and second round fixtures to take place during the same dates of the Champions League.
And since the Egyptian league has not yet concluded, it was decided that the first four teams of the Egyptian national league are to represent Egypt in the new season’s two CAF competitions, with the top two teams taking part in the CAF Champions League while the third and fourth placed teams are to participate in the Confederations Cup. Accordingly, CAF referred to the Egyptian clubs in the schedule of fixtures as Egypt 1 and 2 in each competition. According to the current ranking, it seems that the clubs expected to join the African interclub competitions are likely to be Ahly, Zamalek, Pyramids and Masri.
Meanwhile, the recently held 41st CAF Ordinary General Assembly saw the signing of an agreement on governance reforms. FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura is expected to assume the role of general delegate to lead the reforms and governance at CAF for a six-month renewable period effective 1 August.
“Dear delegates, I have appealed to FIFA,” CAF President Ahmad Ahmad said in his opening address. “This call is on my own initiative and I assume total responsibility. Faced with a situation that worsened step by step, I asked the President of FIFA Mr Ginani Infantino to bring me an interim support.
“He has approved our sister Fatma Samoura, FIFA secretary general, to accompany us in the implementation phase of new structures and more generally to help CAF to continue the reforms that we started, as well as follow the investigations that FIFA’s Governance Committee would like to engage on the management of the central administration,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad signed on behalf of CAF while Infantino appended his signature on behalf of world football’s governing body. The road map will be implemented with the close collaboration of the FIFA general delegate for Africa and the CAF secretary general, relying on the CAF administration and a group of experts, selected according to their expertise. The CAF decision-making bodies, namely its Executive Committee and the General Assembly, while maintaining their respective prerogatives as fixed in the statutes, will be provided with reports outlining the progresses of work. The objectives of this roadmap will be regularly adapted, according to the evolution of the mission. All work will be undertaken under the supervision of the CAF president and the FIFA president, with regular reporting to the CAF Executive Committee.
The roadmap covers financial management, good governance, internal procedures, efficient and professional organisation of competitions and growth and development of African football. These areas are divided into 11 points which will include general audit of the financial management and the internal processes; full transparency of the management process, notably the money flows (revenues and expenses); implementation of good governance principles and compliance in internal procedures; analysis of administration of judicial bodies; improvement of all competition formats; set up of a task force on match operations and stadium security; set up of a comprehensive plan for the integrity of competitions; development of refereeing; analysis of current commercial agreements; streamlining of FIFA and CAF development programmes, with an in-depth reflection as to implement a tailor-made programme for the African continent; and development of commercial opportunities.
Another highlight was the CAF president naming football legends Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba to his advisory team.
On the following day, Friday 19 July, Infantino, Samoura and Ahmad as well as state officials from Egypt, Algeria and Senegal watched the game from the VIP tribune of Cairo International Stadium as Baghdad Bounedjah’s first minute deflected effort handed Algeria its second AFCON title after a 29-year wait with a 1-0 victory over Senegal in a highly charged final.
Algeria, which was playing in only its second final since 2010 held on to the score-line and secured the Cup of Nations crown with an unbeaten run while Senegal’s wait for a maiden AFCON title still lingers on. It is another case of so near yet so far, the Lions of Teranga having lost another final in 2002 in Mali.
Nigerian forward and AFCON top scorer Odion Jude Ighalo with five goals, followed his captain John Obi Mikel in announcing his retirement from international football shortly after the conclusion of the tournament in Cairo.
Ighalo posted his goodbyes on his official Instagram page, expressing his delight at his five-year Super Eagles career.
“This is one of the most difficult career decisions I have had to take. It’s been an amazing 5 years journey, but after due consultation and extensive discussion with my family I have decided it’s time for me to retire from the National team. It has been an eventful and most memorable opportunity to serve my country with pride, passion and to contribute my quota to the development of our football,” Ighalo stated.
Back in Egypt, the Egyptian domestic league resumed two days after the AFCON came to an end. The league resumed with Zamalek and El-Gouna playing to an exciting 2-2 draw. The result seriously dented Zamalek’s hopes of winning the league title while boosting that of defending champions Ahly. With two games left for each, including a titanic class between them at season’s end, Ahly have 74 points, five points ahead of Zamalek.
Zamalek’s remaining matches are against Ismaili and Ahly.
Ahly do have the chance of winning the title with one match to spare if they beat Arab Contractors in their penultimate game scheduled to be held on Wednesday, after Al-Ahram Weekly would have gone to print.