CAIRO: The next Africa Cup of Nations finals have been put back six months and will now be played from Dec 21, 2025 to Jan 18, 2026, the Confederation of African (CAF) football announced on Friday.

The 2025 tournament in Morocco was supposed to take place in mid-year but has been shifted because of FIFA’s new expanded Club World Cup with 32 teams in the United States next June and July.

CAF held a virtual executive committee at their headquarters in Cairo on Friday evening after which president Patrice Motsepe made the announcement.

An added challenge for CAF officials was the desire to avoid a clash of dates with the UEFA Champions League in Europe.

Matchday six of the elite European club competition ends on December 11 2025 and matchday seven begins on January 21 2026.

However, the new dates are sure to upset many Premier League clubs as the Christmas-New Year period is frenetic with teams playing many matches in a short period.

English media reports have suggested clubs might not release African stars as they are compelled to do so for only one international championship per year and the next World Cup is in 2026.

CAF could argue that it is the 2025 AFCON, although most of the tournament will be staged the following year.

Finding suitable dates for the AFCON, a 24-nation tournament won by hosts the Ivory Coast last February, has become increasingly difficult.

A switch to mid year worked for the 2019 edition in the searing heat of Egypt in so far as it avoided a clash with the European club seasons.

However, the two subsequent editions, in Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, had to be staged in January and February to avoid the rainy seasons in central and west Africa.

The 2025 finals were to be a showcase for Morocco to bolster its summer tourism profile and also look to prove their capability ahead of co-hosting the 2030 World Cup with Portugal and Spain, but it is now scheduled for the winter months.

The 2025 Cup of Nations qualifiers will be played in the next three international windows in September, October and November this year in quick-fire campaign after which the 24 finalists will wait more than one year before the finals kick off.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2024

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