The Africa Cup of Nations may be cancelled due to the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, according to some reports in France.
The tournament is due to take place between January 9 and February 6 in Cameron, with a number of Arsenal and Chelsea players set to take part, missing a number of Premier League fixtures as a result.
Now, French outlet RMC Sport have now claimed that the Central African Federation (CAF) could cancel the competition as fears surrounding the Omicron variant continue to grow.
However, The Daily Mail have reported that AFCON bosses are adamant that the tournament won’t be cancelled.
If the tournament doesn’t go ahead the Gunners will have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe, Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny available for their matches at the start of the year.
Similarly, the Blues would be boosted by the fact that Edouard Mendy and Hakim Ziyech would still be around at the turn of the year.
The CAF had met with the tournament’s organising committee back in October, discussing their findings in a preparation report for the tournament, with ‘sanitary matters’ relating to Covid-19 said to be of ‘urgent attention’ in order for the competition to go ahead safely.
According to official rules, African countries would be allowed to call their players up from December 27 onwards, meaning players from African nations going all the way to the final could miss up to six Premier League outings for their clubs, with a potential two FA Cup fixtures also likely to be out of the question.
However, FIFA regulations have stated that players must be released by their clubs by January 3, which would allow the aforementioned Mendy and Ziyech to play against title rivals Liverpool on January 2.
The competition was originally supposed to take place in June and July of this year but was eventually delayed to the start of 2022 because of ‘unfavourable climatic conditions’ during the summer, according to CAF.
If AFCON is cancelled, it wouldn’t just be a boost to the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. Crystal Palace will be losing the likes of Jeffrey Schlupp, Wilfried Zaha and Cheikhou Kouyate if the tournament does go ahead, while Brentford will be without the likes of Julian Jeanvier and summer recruit Frank Onyeka.
London duo of West Ham and Tottenham are not going to take as much of a hit as other clubs from the capital, with the latter currently having no African players in the playing squad, meaning they will be completely unscathed compared to their league rivals.
Winger Said Benrahma will be away with Algeria but Arthur Masuaku is set to stay in the capital after DR Congo failed to qualify.