AFCON 2021 Qualifiers: CAF Directs All Matches To Be Played Behind Closed Doors

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has stipulated that the upcoming rounds of qualifying matches for the 2021 AFCON holding between 9-17 November should hold behind closed doors in line with the continental body’s Covid-19 protocols.

Qualifying matches for next year’s continental showpiece in Cameroon resume across the continent next week, a year on from the last qualifiers and months after the fixtures were initially postponed over the coronavirus pandemic.

In preparation for the matches, National Safety and Security Officers (NSSO) of CAF Member Associations and appointed CAF safety and security officers attended a virtual meeting on 4 November and reached a number of resolutions aimed at ensuring the safety of players and officials. 

A CAF statement said the meeting resolved that all matches must be played “behind closed doors and without spectators” and stressed “the need for each Member Association (MA) to have a good safety and security plan before the effective resumption of official matches”.

Nigeria’s federal government had already directed the Super Eagles encounter against Sierra Leone on 13 November at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium be held behind closed doors after the Edo State government declared gates open for the fixture.

CAF’s Head of Safety and Security Dr. Christian Emeruwa said: “Our goal is to ensure that there is uniformity in safety and security operations across Africa with an emphasis on making sure that the matches are played under a safe and secured environment.

“We are mindful of the enormous task ahead, especially how to keep spectators and supporters away from the stadium. Hence, we felt the need to guide all National safety and security officers and appointed CAF safety and security officers on best practices under these conditions.

“The protection of the players and officials before, during, and after the match is of great importance in our operations. We need to ensure effective coordination between safety and security officers and all other health officers that will be involved in delivering each match.”