Nigeria’s 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Sierra Leone has been called off after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) cancelled upcoming qualifiers for the 2021 Men’s Africa Cup of Nations and the 2020 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations because of the coronavirus pandemic.
CAF made the decision known in a letter sent to member organisations on Friday.
African football’s governing body said despite the fact the continent has been relatively spared from the pandemic, the fact that many national team players currently play in severely affected countries was a factor in the decision to postpone the qualifiers.
The Super Eagles duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi have been impacted after three players of the Leicester first team were placed under quarantine after exhibiting symptoms of the disease.
Similarly, Ola Aina and William Troost-Ekong who play in Italy for Torino and Udinese have been affected after Italian authorities locked down the entire country in a bid to manage the situation in Europe’s worst-hit country.
The men’s qualifiers were due to take place between 25 March and 31 March while the women’s matches were set for the following week.
“Several players, who are supposed to play the next AFCON qualifiers come from countries which have been severely affected by the virus,” the letter said.
The continental body had previously stated it would ‘maintain its schedule’ until an African country was declared high-risk, however, CAF had faced pressure from a number of countries in recent days to postpone the fixtures.
Some 48 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers were set to take place across the continent at the end of March.
The postponement will not affect the African Nations Championship (CHAN) which is due to take place in Cameroon between 4-25 April.
CAF said a delegation from its medical committee is set to visit Cameroon – which has reported two cases of coronavirus so far – on Saturday, with a view to assessing ‘the preventive measures taken by the Local Organising Committee’ ahead of the tournament for players based in their own leagues.
No date has been given for when the qualifiers could be potentially played but CAF said it would “share a new proposal of a calendar”.