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IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS ON AFRICAN FOOTBALL

One can’t overemphasize the toll taken on the sporting world by the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Setting and upholding quality standards in sports on the African continent, especially football, has always been an uphill task. Like every other major football tournament, the coronavirus also knocked on the doors of African football uninvited. However, some football organizing bodies from different parts of the world have started to adjust well to fit in the situation. Here’s a look at how African football has played her part.

1. NIGERIAN PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

The Nigerian highest level football league, according to the latest rankings, sits 10th place on the shortlist of the top African leagues after suspending football activities back in March. The stoppage comes due to the pandemic outbreak after lengthy deliberations eventually decide to adopt the point-per-game method to determine the final standings of the competition.

Of the 20 teams that participated in the competition, only a few have played an equal number of matches with newcomers AKWA STARLETS playing the most games (26) and all-time champions EYIMBA F.C who have won the competition for a record 8 times playing just 20 and sitting out in 5th position.

After the adoption of the points-per-game initiative, several teams lost their stands while others saw themselves rise above the ranks. In the end, it was PLATEAU UNITED who finished top of the table while  ENYIMBA and RIVERS UNITED occupied second and third place, respectively. All three teams will, therefore, proceed to the CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.

2. MAURITIAN PREMIER LEAGUE

Mauritius, an island nation located in Eastern Africa with a population of just 1.2 million, became the first African nation to end its football season due to the pandemic after an initial postponement on March 19.

With uncertainties as to when the pandemic will be over, the General Secretary of the Football Association announced the suspension. With just ten participating teams in the football league and 13 out of 18 games played, the 2019/2020 season was canceled with no champion announced.

Although GRAND RIVIERE and BOLTON CITY finished first and second place respectively with both having accumulated 30 points each, the league, however, proposed that head-to-head matches will be a tiebreaker. GRAND RIVIERE was lucky enough to have made it through in a 17 goal difference outcome as opposed to BOLTON CITY’S 16. The former therefore earn qualification for the CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE as the only team.

3. FASOFOOT D1

FASOFOOT D1 is the top division of the Burkina Faso league headed by the Burkinabe Football federation. On the 4th of May, the emergency committee of the football federation decided to cancel the top tier season with six rounds of matches left to play. In the decision made, there will neither be champions nor relegations in the top-tier division as opposed to the second-tier league, which already concluded before the pandemic outbreak. In this situation, the first division, which usually has 16 teams compete will now have 18 teams for the 2020/2021 season as the top two teams in the second division will gain promotion to the first division.

4. KENYA PREMIER LEAGUE

The Football Kenya Federation (FKF), which is the governing body of the Kenya football league, unlike other African leagues, has made a somewhat different approach in response to the cancellation of their seven tiers men football leagues and two tiers of women football. On the 30th of April, The FKF decided to crown champions of each men’s league division by the standings at midseason. The two tiers of the women’s league were, however, indecisive as they had only played one round of matches into the new season.

5. BURUNDI PRIMUS LIGUE

The Burundi football league became the first African league to restart as the world of sports began to adjust to the stoppages caused by the coronavirus pandemic slowly. The league restart took place on the 21st of May between MUSONGATI and ATLETICO OLYMPIC, which ended in a 3-3 stalemate with full attendance, including the president of the Burundi Football federation present at the event. The final fixtures of the league were played out on the 24th of June as opposed to the scheduled 28th of June by the football federation. League winners LE MESSAGER NGOZI finished in the first position with 64 points, 8 points above second-placed MUSONGATI, which will see them be the only team to represent their nation in the CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.

Other African football leagues also made a synonymous decision in halting their leagues with only a few changes in the conclusions reached.

The GIRABOLA Football League, which is the top division of Angolan football, has pronounced its first and second-placed teams qualifiers for the CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE with five matches remaining.

GUINEA’S top tier Football league the LIGUE 1 PRO has rendered the whole of its season null and void with no champion emerging. Neither promotion nor relegation pronounced on any team as the league was only halfway into the competition.

The Ethiopian premier league, on the other hand, has decided not to have any team represent them in the CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.

The EGYPTIAN PREMIER LEAGUE, which sits first on the top African league’s rankings, got the approval of a restart on the 7th of August with Cairo giants AL AHLY topping the log with 52 points.

6. MANE & SALAH’S BALLON D’OR HOPES DASHED.

The cancellation of the 2020 Ballon d’Or due to Coronavirus has also affected African footballers as hopefuls Sadio Mane, and Mohammed Salah won’t get a chance to become the first African to win the prestigious individual award since George Weah in 1995.

Sadio Mane and Salah contributed significantly to Liverpool’s historic 2019/2020 Premier League campaign, which saw Jurgen Klopp’s side finish 20+ points ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Salah scored 19 goals and contributed ten assists in the Premier League alone while Sadio Make scored 18 goals and provided seven assists.

Aubameyang ended the Premier League as the top-scoring African footballer, scoring 22 Premier League goals. Arsenal finished 8th in the League, a position that perhaps would not have favored him for the Ballon d’Or. He scored two goals against Manchester City and another two against Chelsea in the FA Cup final, scoring all Arsenal’s goals in the process and ending his campaign with 29 goals in total, noteworthy.

7. CAF POSTPONEMENTS AND/OR CANCELLATIONS

The 33rd edition of the African Cup of Nations tournament, which was due to begin in Cameroon on January 9, 2021, was pushed back to January 2022 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The African Women’s Cup of Nations was canceled altogether.

The tournament was scheduled to take place between January and February next year. The football governing body, however, decided that the local version of the AFCON, the Championship of African Nations, CHAN, will take place in January 2021.

It had initially been slated to be played in April this year. Cameroon will host both competitions.

The Total CAF Champions League and Total CAF Confederation Cup will resume in September with a Final Four format. Semi-Final matches will be played in a single match

The CAF Women’s Champions League will be launched in 2021.

All these were decisions taken by CAF due to the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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