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2008 Africa Cup of Nations
African Cup to stay in January
Confederation of African Football president will not bow to European pressure.
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2008 12:15 GMT

CAF president Issa Hayatou, left, speaks with Fifa president Sepp Blatter, right, [GALLO/GETTY]

Issa Hayatou, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), has strongly defended the timing of the biennial tournament, saying that it would not be moving from its traditional January slot.
European clubs have long been lobbying to move the tournament to their off-season, as the likes of English FA Cup holders Chelsea, 2005 Champions League winners Barcelona, and two-time Uefa Cup holders Sevilla, among many others, lose some of their prized assets to national service.
Players like Bolton's Senegal international El Hadji Diouf have openly called for the competition to be rescheduled in order to avoid the customary club-versus-country row.
 

"We are not going to bow to their whims and caprices. We will maintain our stand regarding the organisation of the competition."

Issa Hayatou,
CAF president

However the idea of a calendar change to suit European interests was dismissed by Hayatou on Tuesday, five days ahead of the start of year's tournament in Ghana.
 
"As long as I remain the president of CAF, the date scheduled for Africa's biggest soccer fiesta will remain unchanged," Hayatou said on arrival in the Ghanaian capital Accra.
 
"We are not going to bow to their whims and caprices. We will maintain our stand regarding the organisation of the competition.
 
"It will be held every two years in January."
 
However Diouf argues that a change is a legitimate notion, given that the number of African internationals playing in Europe has increased.
 
"Players like me, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o and a lot of other African players want to play this tournament in June," the former African Player of the Year said.
 
"If we did that then we wouldn't get problems from anybody. I understand the frustration of clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Bolton who pay big money for the players and then lose them for one month.
 
Increase in African players
 

"Now we have many African players doing well and that is why their clubs don't want to lose them in January."

El Hadji Diouf,
Bolton's Senegal international

"Right now there are a lot of African players playing in the Premiership compared to five years ago. Now we have many African players doing well and that is why their clubs don't want to lose them in January," Diouf added.
 
"It can create problems for players at their clubs like the ones I had with Gerard Houllier at Liverpool. I went to the African Nations against his wishes and when I returned he didn't want to play me any more because I had gone."
 
Arsenal, currently equal-top of the English Premier League table on points with Manchester United, have been hit hard by the call of Africa, with defenders Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Eboue and Alexander Song all leaving the Emirates Stadium at a crucial time in the title race.
 
However for Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager, the Africa Cup of Nations exodus is a fact of life which just has to be accepted by the big clubs.
 
"I won't use (the African absentees) as an excuse if we don't win the title because I've known who we will lose since the start of the season," Wenger said.
 
"I must just treat them as injured players."
 
The Africa Cup of Nations kicks-off on January 20.
Source:
Agencies
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