By James Agberebi:
Nigeria Football Federation President Amaju Pinnick has reiterated that the Confederation of Africa Football was not under pressure from Europe to change the timing of the Africa Cup of Nations.
In July, CAF Executive Committee at a two-day symposium in Rabat, Morocco, agreed to change the calendar of AFCON from January/February to June/July.
Also, the committee extended the number of teams from 16 to 24. The changes will take effect from the 2019 edition in Cameroon.
Speaking in a two-minute video on CNN Sport Twitter handle, Pinnick who is a member of CAF Executive Committee, stated that the decision was taken for the benefit of African players who ply their trades in Europe.
“We took Africa into cognisance. We took the players, their welfares, their future and also the future of other African players that would be possibly going to Europe which you must agree has the biggest leagues in the world,” he explained.
“It was a full African idea and not any pressure from Europe.”
Pinnick dismissed talk about CAF taking the AFCON out of Africa.
“Taking the AFCON outside Africa is not debatable. I don’t know who brought up that idea,” he added.
“AFCON is a pride of Africa. It is the symbol of African unity. So there is no way we would take it out of Africa, not in the foreseeable future.”
And on the expansion of teams in the AFCON from 16 to 24, Pinnick said: “We want the issue of the more the merrier.
“Our argument is based on sporting and commercial benefits. What are the sporting benefits? “There will be more recognition for African players, their worth will now be well pronounced because if you look at when they are negotiating their contracts, they take into cognizance that critical period between January and February.
“So now African players know they can now play from the beginning of their different championships (league games) till the end.”
“For the commercial value, there will be more visibility for brands and that money can now be used to develop and throw around the small African countries.