JOHANNESBURG: The start of the group stages of the African qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup could be postponed for a second time to September, a special advisor to Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe said on Wednesday.

The qualifiers are scheduled to begin in early June, having already been postponed from October last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But a clampdown by CAF on poor stadium facilities across the continent could force another delay.

“We are waiting on final confirmation from CAF, but that is the thinking at the moment, that the qualification will start in September and not in June,” Motsepes advisor Danny Jordaan, who is also president of the South African Football Association, told reporters.

A final decision is expected to be made at the next CAF Executive Committee meeting, which is scheduled for May 15 in Kigali. A CAF spokesperson declined to comment when contacted.

CAF this week issued a list of approved stadiums for the first two rounds of qualifiers, which left a quarter of the 40 teams competing for places in Qatar 2022 without a venue to play their home matches.

Those affected include Senegal, who competed at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, and Mali, who were among the top seeded teams for the preliminaries.

Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger and Sierra Leone have all also been effected, but a delay would give them time to make the necessary improvements.

The shift in calendar would mean there would be two rounds of qualifiers in each of the FIFA international windows in September, October and November this year.

The 10 group winners will then advance to the final playoff stage in March, which is contested on a home and away basis, where the five victors will earn their place in Qatar.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2021

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