August 21, 2017

AFCON changes, good for African football —Onazi

Super Eagles midfielder Ogenyi Onazi is in support of the Confederation of African Football’s decision to make changes to the Africa Cup of Nations calendar and number of teams.

CAF this week decided to expand their most important competition from 16 to 24 teams and moved it from the traditional January/February to June/July to align with the European football calendar.

The changes take effect from the next AFCON edition in 2019, which Cameroon is set to host.

Trabzonspor star Onazi is happy with the new schedule because African players will no longer have conflicts with their clubs and there will be an end to club versus country rows caused by AFCON participation in the past.

“When you finish a Nations Cup game and if you finish before the finals, your club has to give you a phone call and you need to come back immediately,” Onazi told BBC Sport.

“Even when we won the AFCON in 2013, my team called me immediately, saying that I should fly from South Africa down to the club because we had a Europa League game.

“I told them it’s not possible because we’d just won the tournament.

“I needed to go back to my country and try to see what we were going to do there – and then I’d come back.

“I’ve heard about experiences of other players too – they [clubs] don’t allow them to come.

“They just tell them when it’s like two to three days to the tournament and then they allow them to come – and this has been the difficulty.”

Onazi is also pleased that more African teams will be able to feature in the continent’s top competition.

“It’s another good innovative for some of those African countries that were not able to make it while it was 16 [teams] or so,” Onazi added.

“Now they’ll have the opportunity to exhibit themselves because you never can tell…a little country will have some great talents but because they are not able to make it to the 16 you are not able to see those talents.”

“But now they have an opportunity to come in, and for me it’s also good for their own development.”

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