- Hosts switch tournament from summer to January and February
• Decision will mean Premier League players are unavailable
Premier League players like Manchester City’s Algeria international Riyad Mahrez will be unavailable for their clubs next January. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA
Cameroon have announced the Africa Cup of Nations will be moved from the summer to next January – which will have implications for a number of Premier League clubs.
The tournament was due to be held in June and July but, because of weather conditions in the country at that time of year, the Cameroon Football Federation has decided to stage it between 9 January and 6 February.
“It [the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations] will be played in Cameroon from 9 January to 6 February 2021. Date changed for weather reasons at Cameroon’s request,” the federation posted on Twitter after a meeting with representatives from the Confederation of African Football.
Since 1960, the tournament was always held during winter or early spring, mainly due to climate reasons and to avoid conflict with other international tournaments or club competitions, but it was changed last year when Egypt hosted the first summer tournament.
The move back to winter will affect the likes of Liverpool, who could have Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Sadio Mané (Senegal) and Naby Keïta (Guinea) missing.
Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon) and Nicolas Pépé (Ivory Coast) are also likely to feature, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Leicester among other Premier League clubs who may be without first-team players.
However, the new timing will avoid a clash with Fifa’s revamped 24-team Club World Cup to be played in China in June and July 2021. The Afcon was due to be played immediately afterwards, meaning that players who took part in both competitions would get almost no rest in the summer and would return late for pre-season training in Europe.
Cameroon was originally due to stage the 2019 tournament but was stripped of hosting rights the previous November by CAF because of delays in preparations and security concerns. It subsequently agreed to host the 2021 tournament instead.
Ivory Coast, who had been due to stage the 2021 competition, were awarded the 2023 hosting rights at the expense of Guinea, which will now stage the contest in 2025.