An entertaining reaction can be expected now the Africa Cup of Nations will be reverting to its previous place in the calendar from 2021.
Quick capsule take: no Sadio Mane or Mo Salah for Liverpool across as much as six weeks next season. Cue fury.
Yet in a way Jurgen Klopp asked for this. At the Club World Cup before Christmas, he wanted to know how FIFA were going to balance their revamped, expanded club competition in two summers’ time with international tournaments involving nations in Europe, Africa and Central and North America.
The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will be played back in its traditional winter slot
Now he has the answer. UEFA’s Nations League will start a little earlier, CONCACAF’s Gold Cup might start a fraction later – and the Africa Cup of Nations will be played in the heart of the European winter, from January 9 to February 6. As it always should have been.
The scandal was moving it to Europe’s summer in 2019. Had it remained in this slot, much of the continent would never have been able to host. The rainy season in east Africa is April to June, in west Africa April to July and on the horn of Africa June to October.
Only the north and south of the continent escape downpours in the part of the year Europe calls summer. So, while FIFA’s invasion of the close season may be the most pressing reason for the shift, the official and very reasonable explanation is that the 2021 hosts, Cameroon, cannot possibly hold an event in June and July.
We think it rains where we are. It doesn’t. Not like there.
In Douala, one of the tournament’s major venues with the 50,000 capacity Japoma Stadium, the average monthly rainfall for June and July is 14 inches and then 26.8 inches. It rains 50 of 61 days across those months.
To put this into perspective, the widespread flooding in England and Wales last year was caused by roughly 3.3 inches of rain over 36 hours. In January and February, Douala receives 1.4 to 2.2 inches of rain. That is manageable. The summer monsoons are not.
Jurgen Klopp’s queries about the Club World Cup have been answered with this move in a way
Yet Africa shifted its tournament – which pre-dates the European Championship by three years – because its players were coming under increased pressure from their clubs. Nations were losing them to early retirements or conveniently timed injuries.
They were missing pre-tournament camps. The clubs think money buys football’s soul. They think wages trump all, so that Marvelous Nakamba owes more to a year at Aston Villa than he does to Zimbabwe.
‘In Europe, we play in rain,’ sniffed Avram Grant when confronted with losing a handful of players at Chelsea in 2008.
It is this patronising attitude, and absence of understanding, that forced the African continent into an unsuitable change.
It now appears to have been a temporary one. Egypt in 2019 will be an exception, not the new normal, and thank heavens for that.
The summer months in north Africa bring further…