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Tunisia hand-twist CAF to change Afcon 2023 qualifying schedule

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Waddie Jary, Tunisia Football Federation president and CAF Executive Committee member

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

In the original schedule for the group stage of the qualifying tournament  for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, the series were planned to end this September after busy four-match days proposed for June while match day five and six were to hold in September.

Then in March next year, the qualifying series for the 2025 was to commence.

But all that changed following the protest by Tunisia who threatened to boycott the qualifying tournament to concentrate on preparation for the Qatar World Cup which holds in November and ends in December.

CAF’s initial programme was to see that the Afcon 2023 qualifiers emerge before the World Cup and the tournament was to also serve as preparatory for the five African teams to the 2022 World Cup.

But Tunisian Football Federation president, Waddie Jary would not have that and threatened his team’s boycott. He is also a member of CAF Executive committee.

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“If Caf doesn’t change the dates, then it becomes a problem,” Jary reportedly told Tunisian TV station Attessia.

“It becomes a question of whether we participate in this Afcon or not, if it will distract from our World Cup preparations.

“At that point, the question will arise: ‘Will we sacrifice the 2023 Afcon or not?’. I hope it doesn’t get that far and we come to find a solution with Caf.”

It was also understood that his Moroccan counterpart, Fouzi Lekjaa, suggested that their matches in the qualifying series should be postponed.

As a compromise, CAF decided to move two of the four initial matches in June to September while the original two matches for September were moved to March next year, the period slated for the start of qualifying tournament for 2025 which would have started even before the final tournament of 2023.

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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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