The top clubs in Europe are asking to speak with FIFA about their concerns regarding player safety at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in January.

Mahrez Algeria
Riyad Mahrez (center) is the centerpiece of Algeria’s AFCON 2021 title bid. (Image: Twitter/caf_online)

With the new Omicron COVID variant prompting new restrictions and travel bans around the world, club officials want answers before allowing their players to participate in the tournament. Next year’s AFCON is supposed to take place between Jan. 9 and Feb. 6 in five cities in Cameroon.

In a statement regarding AFCON, the European Club Association (ECA) says its “deeply concerned” about whether players will be safe to travel, “particularly in light of the worsening public health situation and the severe challenges faced during recent international windows. The board agreed to engage urgently with FIFA to ensure all necessary precautions are in place to protect players and club interests as the health situation continues to deteriorate alarmingly.”

Egypt tops the favorites’ list

AFCON was supposed to be played in 2021, but the final tournament was delayed for a year, just like the European Championship and the Copa America, due to the pandemic.

One of the top clubs in Europe most affected by the AFCON is Liverpool, which will miss three of its most important players in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita if the competition goes ahead as planned.

AFCON 2021 groups
24 national teams will enter the main phase of the AFCON 2021. They will be divided into six groups. (Image: Twitter/caf_online)

Algeria won the previous edition of the AFCON, in 2019, but isn’t regarded as the favorite to lift another trophy in February. Guided by Man. City star Riyad Mahrez, the Algerians will look to add fresh gold to their continental record.

Before the 2019 tournament, they were at a huge +1200 to lift the trophy, being ranked only seventh on the bookies’ list. Now they are joint-second favorites with Senegal at +600, sitting just behind Egypt (+500). Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire are below them at +750, suggesting the bookmakers anticipate a really close call in Cameroon at the start of next year.