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Why is AFCON 2022 being held in January?

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations runs from 9 January 2022 to 6 February 2022, but some global fans have been debating the rationale behind the timing.

Why is AFCON 2022 being held in January?

Cameroon is currently playing host to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. Of course, it's January 2022 but don't let that number confuse you, covid-19 is, after all, playing havoc with those responsible for promoting and talking about various sporting events in the past couple of years.

There have been plenty of doubts over this period about when the tournament would take place, but, finally, the country on the Gulf of Guinea would get the action underway, the first time the continental tournament has been held there since 1972.

AFCON 2021: from January to January

Initially due to be played in summer 2021, the 33rd edition of the Cup of Nations was first moved to January and February 2021 due to the “unfavourable climatic conditions” in Cameroon in June and July, before covid-19 forced the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to postpone the event until the start of 2022.

Featuring 24 teams for the first time in the tournament’s history, AFCON 2021 - whose name CAF has opted not to change, despite the 12-month delay - began on Sunday 9 January, when Cameroon got off to the best possible start with a 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso at Yaoundé’s Olembé Stadium. The 60,000-capacity arena will also be the venue for the final, held on 6 February.

AFCON Cameroon switch

It's worth noting that Cameroon wasn’t originally scheduled to host AFCON 2021. In 2014, the country was awarded the hosting rights for the 2019 Cup of Nations, but in 2018 it was stripped of the tournament after CAF decided that not enough progress had been made in the Cameroonians’ preparations for the event.

CAF gave AFCON 2019 to Egypt instead, and switched Cameroon to 2021. The Ivory Coast, which had already been chosen as the 2021 venue, was given AFCON 2023, while Ghana, originally hosts in 2023, will now stage the tournament in 2025.

AFCON 2021: schedule (all times ET)

With the group stage coming to an end on Thursday 20 January with Gambia vs Tunisia and Mali vs Mauritania, we're almost set for the knockout stage. Here are the dates you need for your diary...

Knockout stage

Last 16:

23 January (match 37): Runner-up Group A vs Runner-up Group C (11:00) - Limbé Stadium, Limbé

23 January (match 38): Winner Group D vs 3rd Group B/E/F (14:00) - Roumdé Adjia Stadium, Garoua

24 January (match 40): Runner-up Group B vs Runner-up Group F (11:00) - Limbé Stadium, Limbé

24 January (match 39): Winner Group A vs 3rd Group C/D/E (14:00) - Olembé Stadium, Yaoundé

25 January (match 41): Winner Group B vs 3rd Group A/C/D (11:00) - Bafoussam Stadium, Kouekong

25 January (match 42): Winner Group C vs 3rd Group A/B/F (14:00) - Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaoundé

26 January (match 43): Winner Group E vs Runner-up Group D (11:00) - Japoma Stadium, Douala

26 January (match 44): Winner Group F vs Runner-up Group E (14:00) - Limbé Stadium, Limbé

Algeria are the defending champions, having won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019.
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Algeria are the defending champions, having won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019.Guiseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images


29 January (match 46): Winner match 40 vs Winner match 39 (11:00) - Japoma Stadium, Douala

29 January (match 45): Winner match 37 vs Winner match 38 (14:00) - Roumdé Adjia Stadium, Garoua

30 January (match 47): Winner match 43 vs Winner match 42 (11:00) - Olembé Stadium, Yaoundé

30 January (match 48): Winner match 41 vs Winner match 44 (14:00) - Japoma Stadium, Douala


2 February (match 49): Winner match 45 vs Winner match 48 (14:00) - Japoma Stadium, Douala

3 February (match 50): Winner match 46 vs Winner match 47 (14:00) - Olembé Stadium, Yaoundé

Third-place play-off:

6 February: Loser match 49 vs Loser match 50 (11:00) - Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaoundé


6 February: Winner match 49 vs Winner match 50 (14:00) - Olembé Stadium, Yaoundé

AFCON 2021: the venues

AFCON 2021 is to be played at six stadiums across five cities. CAF announced that, because of covid-19, attendances would be capped at 80% of a ground’s capacity for games involving Cameroon, and 60% for all others.

Olembé Stadium, Yaoundé

Capacity: 60,000

Located around 15km from the centre of Yaoundé, the country’s capital city, the new Olembé Stadium is described by CAF as an “architectural jewel” and “the nugget of Cameroon’s sports facilities”. The Olembé complex includes an Olympic swimming pool, a shopping centre, a five-star hotel and two training stadiums.

Rounds stadium will host: group stage, last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, final

Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaoundé

Capacity: 40,000

Also used when Cameroon held the Africa Cup of Nations in 1972, Yaoundé’s Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium was renovated ahead of the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon in 2016, and again in 2018. The stadium was also one of the venues for the 2020 edition of the African Nations Championship, which is similar to AFCON but only features Africa-based players.

Rounds stadium will host: group stage, last 16, third-place play-off

Japoma Stadium, Douala

Capacity: 50,000

Located in Douala, which at around three million inhabitants is the most populous city in Cameroon, Japoma Stadium was built in 2019 and, like Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium, also hosted games in the 2020 African Nations Championship. Its facilities also include an eight-lane athletics track, two training stadiums, an Olympic swimming pool, a gymnasium and four tennis courts.

Rounds stadium will host: group stage, last 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals

Roumdé Adjia Stadium, Garoua

Capacity: 23,000

Built in 1978, Roumdé Adjia Stadium was remodelled in 2010 and again in 2020, and is the home ground of 15-time Cameroonian champions Coton Sport FC. Roumdé Adjia was in the running to stage 2020 African Nations Championship matches, but was not finally used. The complex also features a training stadium.

Rounds stadium will host: group stage, last 16, quarter-finals

Bafoussam Stadium, Kouekong

Capacity: 20,000

Inaugurated in 2016, Bafoussam Stadium is, together with Limbé Stadium, the joint-smallest venue in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations. The stadium is located in Kouekong, a suburb around 15km from the centre of Bafoussam, which with around one million inhabitants is Cameroon’s third-largest city by population.

Rounds stadium will host: group stage, last 16

Limbé Stadium, Limbé

Capacity: 20,000

Situated in the coastal town of Limbé, whose population of 85,000 makes it the smallest of the host cities, the stadium “offers a breathtaking view of the nearby Atlantic Ocean”, CAF says. Built in 2014, it also has an athletics track and a training stadium, and was a venue for the 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations and the 2020 African Nations Championship.

Rounds stadium will host: group stage, last 16


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