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COVID-19 rules issued ahead of 2021 AFCON kick-off

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Health concerns are given prominence as the 33rd Africa Cup of Nations is about to kick-off. On the eve of the most postponed edition, the governing body, CAF  set a new guidelines & rules regarding the substitutions and COVID-19 cases.

Ahead of the kick-off, almost all the 24 teams have had one issue or the other regarding the global pandemic, COVID 19.

The number is alarming in some teams. For instance, Nigeria’s last group opponents, Guinea Bissau recorded 10 positive cases in their camp just three days to kick-off.

Egypt have had to drop their first choice goalkeeper, Mohamed Abo Gabal as well as trainer  Essam El Hadary .

To ease the process of completing all games on time, the CAF have laid down some rules regarding the virus, stating that teams must play their matches provided they have a minimum of 11 players available.

Moreover, in case of the absence of all goalkeepers, an outfield player must go between the sticks, provided the total number of available players is at least 11.

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If a team fail to field 11 players, they will be considered to have lost the match by a scoreline of 0-2; however, the in case of exceptional cases, the Organizing Committee of the compeition will be the one to take the appropriate decision.

And regarding the number of substitute players per match, CAF have permitted each team to use a maximum of five substitutes, with a maximum of three opportunities to make substitutions during the game and at half-time.

Unused substitutions and opportunities are carried forward into extra time, where teams will each be allowed one additional substitution and an extra substitution opportunity.

These rules will first take place as hosts Cameroon go head-to-head with Burkina Faso in the opening game of group A on Sunday, three hours before Ethiopia take on Cape Verde.

Number of substitute players per match:

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CAF will apply the five substitutions per match rule during this competition, as follows: 

  • Each team will be permitted to use a maximum of five substitutes.
  • To reduce disruption to the match, each team will have a maximum of three opportunities to make substitutions during the game; substitutions may also be made at half-time.
  • If both teams make a substitution at the same time, this will count as one of the three opportunities for each team.
  • Unused substitutions and opportunities are carried forward into extra time.
  • Where extra time is played, teams will each be allowed one additional substitution, and will have one additional substitution opportunity; substitutions may also be made before the start of extra time and at half-time in extra time.

Minimum number of players in case of a team affected by COVID-19

  • If the result of the Covid-19 PCR test of any player is positive, such player will not be authorized to go to the stadium or participate in the applicable match.
  • A team will be required to play a match if they have a minimum of eleven (11) players available who have tested negative. In the event of the absence of a goalkeeper, another player from the team must replace the goalkeeper, provided the total number of available players is at least eleven.
  • A team that does not have a minimum of eleven (11) players available will be considered to have lost the match 0-2.
  • In exceptional cases, the Organizing Committee of the Africa Cup of Nations will take the appropriate decision.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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