Namibia: Afcon Change Presents Predicament

THE Confederation of African Football's decision to revert back to its traditional time slot for the 2021 African Cup of Nations finals will present a predicament for the Brave Warriors according to interim coach Bobby Samaria.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) last week announced that the 2021 Afcon finals, which will be held in Cameroon, had been brought forward from June to January and February next year to avoid the Cameroonian rainy season.

The Afcon was traditionally held in January and February until Caf decided to change the date to June for the 2019 finals which took place in Egypt, while it also increased the number of participating teams from 16 to 24.

The switch avoided disruption to the European club season, but provoked concerns about high temperatures, as it took place in the searing heat of the north African summer.

With last week's change in date, the Brave Warriors' qualifying campaign for the 2021 Afcon finals has also been affected.

Namibia's home and away matches against Mali, which were supposed to take place in October this year have now been brought forward to the end of March. Namibia will first play Mali away in Bamako over the weekend of 22 March, while the two sides will meet in their return leg in Windhoek the following week.

Namibia, however, has also qualified for the CHAN finals for local-based players, which takes place in Cameroon from 4 to 25 April, and Samaria said it would affect their preparation adversely for both competitions.

"It will be a bit difficult going forward especially with the Chan finals starting a week later in Cameroon, so that's a bit of a predicament," he said yesterday.

"I would have liked to have the team in camp seven weeks before, but now we will have to juggle two teams at the same time. But we have the numbers and the players and I have submitted my training plan to the Normalisation Committee so I can only comment on that once it has been approved," he added.

Namibia's away leg match against Chad, which was due to take place next year, has been brought forward to the weekend of 6 June, while Namibia's return leg match against Guinea has been moved forward from mid-November to the weekend of 5 September.

With local football still at a standstill, the Brave Warriors will once again have to prepare on their own without the benefit of a local league, but Samaria said they would plan ahead.

"We managed to qualify for Chan because we planned ahead, so now we will just do the same. We will keep the players engaged with training and they must train like a club team," he said.

Namibia's 2021 Afcon qualification campaign got off to a winning start when they beat Chad 2-1 at home on 13 November last year, but four days later they lost 2-0 away to Guinea, which leaves them in third place on the log on three points, behind Guinea and Mali who are both on four.

Samaria said that planning would be key to their chances of success for the rest of their campaign.

"We went to Guinea with the belief that we could get a good result, but things didn't go our way, so now it will be very important to plan well for Mali. Our planning for the Mali match will be of paramount importance, especially with regard to travelling through West Africa and if we need to charter a plane we will have to do that," he said.

Samaria, however, said it would be premature of him to talk about their upcoming matches, until a full-time coach is appointed for the Brave Warriors.

"On 20 February the new executive committee of the NFA will be appointed, so I think it will be up to them to decide if they want to retain me as the coach," he said.

"My mandate was originally to qualify for the Chan finals, but it was extended to include the World Cup preliminary qualifiers and the Afcon qualifiers. I delivered on the Chan mandate and World Cup qualifiers, and won one and lost one of the Afcon qualifiers, so now I guess we will have to wait on the new leadership to apply their minds on the way forward with regard to the Afcon," he added.

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