Africa: Cup of Nations Teams Told to Field 11 Fit Men Even If Covid Ravages Squad


African football chiefs on Sunday told sides competing at the Cup of Nations that they will not be able to use mass coronavirus infections in the squad as an excuse and will have to play their fixtures as long as 11 players are fit.

The continent’s most prestigious national football team tournament starts on Sunday afternoon with hosts Cameroon taking on Burkina Faso in Group A at the Olembé Stadium in Yaoundé.

The match is followed by the second clash in the pool between Ethiopia and Cape Verde.

Background

But the coronavirus pandemic – which forced a year-long delay of the tournament – continues to overshadow the showpiece event with a raft of players testing positive for the virus either just before leaving their training camps or as soon as they have arrived in Cameroon.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) – which organises the biennial football fest – said an outfield player would have to play in goal if all the goalkeepers were struck down with the disease.

“A team that does not have a minimum of 11 players available will be considered to have lost the match 0-2,” Caf added in a statement.

“In exceptional cases, the organising committee of the Africa Cup of Nations will take the appropriate decision.”

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has forced the postponement of scores of sporting fixtures since the autumn.

Cup of Nations organisers have authorised squads of 28 players – rather than the traditional roster of 23 – in an effort to compensate for illnesses. Teams will be able to make five substitutions per match and another one if a game goes into 30 minutes of extra-time.