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European clubs concerned over Omicron risk at AFCON

Tom Gott
Clubs are concerned about releasing players for the AFCON
Clubs are concerned about releasing players for the AFCON / DANIEL BELOUMOU OLOMO/GettyImages

The European Club Association have voiced their concerns about sending players to the upcoming African Cup of Nations after the Omicron Covid-19 variant was discovered in South Africa late last month.

Cameroon are scheduled to host the tournament, which will begin on January 9 and run until February 6, and a number of players from all across Europe are expected to join up and represent their respective countries.

However, numerous nations have already begun reintroducing stricter lockdown rules amid concerns over the infection rate of the Omicron variant, and the ECA confirmed that they plan to hold talks with FIFA in the coming weeks to discuss the safety of the AFCON.

A statement read: "The Board also expressed its deep concerns around player safety and welfare ahead of the African Cup Nations and upcoming international windows in early 2022, 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 in an alarming manner."

On top of the obvious risk to health, the ECA are also concerned about the impact that quarantining could have on domestic schedules, with many leagues keen to avoid a repeat of the chaos which took place back in September.

Some clubs blocked their South American players from travelling for the international break to avoid the need for an isolation period upon their return, leading to an arduous legal battle with FIFA over whether those players should be punished for failing to report for international duty.

It all led to nothing, but the tension remains and the ECA are keen to avoid anything similar happening once again.

An agreement was reached in October which saw clubs pay for private jets to bring their players back as soon as possible, with the players themselves agreeing to remain in a bubble during the international break as well.