• WAFU zone produces 12 teams
Three days after Benin Republic played what many fans see as ‘a fast one’ on the Super Eagles by declaring Alex Iwobi COVID-19 positive before the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Porto Novo, the Squirrels were served the same dish in Freetown when tested and declared five of their players COVID-19 positive ahead of their botched final AFCON qualifier.
With five of their best players screened out of the game, the Squirrels protested and refused to play the game.
Rows over COVID-19 tests have plagued African football since last year, with host national teams and clubs accused of producing false-positive results to deprive opponents of stars.
Iwobi was prevented from playing against the Squirrels in Porto Novo, a match the Super Eagles won 1-0, no thanks to Paul Onuachu’s last-minute header. Three days later, Iwobi tested negative to COVID-19 and featured in the Eagles versus Crocodiles of Lesotho match in Lagos. Nigeria won 3-0.
Nemesis caught up with Benin Republic on Tuesday when five of their players were confirmed COVID-19 positive, leading to a standoff as both squads remained in their hotels, while talks between the countries and Confederation of African Football (CAF) officials in Freetown failed to resolve it.
Benin holds a three-point lead over Sierra Leone in Group L, but both teams have a chance of finishing runners-up to Nigeria.
The Guardian learned yesterday that CAF has moved the game to June this year.
Meanwhile, teams from the West African Football Union (WAFU) will again dominate in terms of numbers, when hostilities begin in Cameroun next year.
Of the 24 teams expected to feature, half of them will come from West Africa, which looks like the power bloc of African national teams’ football.
Sports Village Square recalls that as of March 30, 2021, of the 23 teams that had qualified, 11 are from West Africa.
With the last ticket in Group L still being contested by Benin and Sierra Leone (two West African teams), it ultimately means that West African attendance will rise to 12.
That leaves the other four regional bodies of East, Central, Southern, and northern Africa to share the remaining 12.
The 11 qualifiers from West Africa are Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Cape Verde. The others include debutants, The Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal.
Qualifiers from North Africa are defending champions, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco.
From central Africa are hosts, Cameroun, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. The east African qualifiers are Ethiopia, Malawi, Sudan, and debutants – Comoros. The only qualifier from southern Africa is Zimbabwe.