The African Cup of Nations and The Economics of Loyalty

in #hive-1016904 months ago


Africa's premier soccer championship, the African Cup of Nations is currently underway in Cameroon. The tournament officially kicks off today despite delays and controversies that have surrounded the showcase event.

Originally scheduled for 2021, the Tournament had to be moved to 2022 due to complications arising from the corona virus pandemic. It isn't unique to the Tournament though, as most major tournaments within the height of the outbreak suffered a similar fate.

However, while that may have been understandable, the controversies didn't stop there and that is where I want to dwell on for this piece. The Tournament has historically been held around this time frame (January - February) but this time around it had been scheduled to take place in June 2021.

The problem with this is that the January calendar has oftentimes not sat well with clubs as it falls within the crucial calendar period for the major European leagues. It was perhaps the reason why CAF (the governing soccer body in the continent) first decided to move the schedule starting with the 2019 edition.

However, due to covid, the January calendar was forced to make a comeback, and football clubs were not happy about it. You see, the biggest names in African football play for clubs overseas (particularly in the top 5 European leagues), and some of them play very crucial roles for their clubs. Therefore, not having them for an entire month could have serious repercussions.

It caused quite the row, as clubs publicly expressed their displeasure with releasing players for the tournament. Some of them went under the guise of 'Covid concerns' to state reasons why they would prefer to keep their players with them. Of course this caused a row with some countries, as some even went as far as threatening legal action.

The Nigerian team had three players pull out of the tournament due to 'unresolved issues' with their clubs. Some players decided of their own accord to pull out of the tournament in order to focus on their club careers such as Moroccan winger Abde who plays for Barcelona Football club.

Now FIFA (the World's got governing soccer body) mandates clubs to release players for major tournaments such as the African Cup of Nations, failure to which they may face heavy sanctions. However, the Corona virus pandemic has changed everything. Clubs are now finding loopholes using Covid concerns as excuses for not releasing their players.

A Rock and A Hard Place

You can't necessarily blame them. A player may be a hero to their country, but it is through their clubs that they are able to ascend to relevance in the first place, and clubs pay quite heavily for this. Therefore, simply letting them go when they are very much needed isn't going to be easy, no matter the compulsion.

This is also worth considering that players may come back with injuries and it would largely be the club that will rehabilitate that player to peak performance, at their own expenses.

Players too are torn in this regard, particularly those just starting out their careers. For instance the Moroccan And just broke into Barcelona's first team, and for him a national assignment at this time poses a risk and a distraction from cementing his place in the squad.


Still, representing our countries is a thing of joy, and should be a sacrifice worth making under any circumstances. Thankfully it appears the majority of stars did make it to the tournament and it promises to be a high level one.


I do understand certain players feeling reluctant to represent their countries. The bread and butter they earn each month is far more in most cases than what they earn playing for their country. I do think tournaments like this should be played in the off season even if that means it is the season of that continent. Imagine Salah turning down Egypt on the grounds he thinks they have no chance of winning the AFCON cup. For 90% of the teams in the tournament this will be the case and why I think it is crazy to be doing this now.

I feel this year AFCON is going to be a blast.

I can't blame the players as much as I blame the smugness of European clubs that they are so open about belittling the championship like that.

Every player should be excited about playing for his country. Representing your nation is a big glory. So, football clubs shouldn't hinder that except the player himself refuses to play. On the other hand, I bought the idea of playing it during June so that it doesn't interfere with club games.

very well spoken....the controversy was very intense two weeks to kick off,concerning the release of key players, i recall klopp saying it's a very hard decision for the club to make considering the release of their star players like M. Salah and Mane and other players
to the players it's a duty they have to perform to their countries despite they career, home is home, more over the choice and decision is on them to make....