The Federation of African Football (CAF) has yet again postponed the 2022 FIFA World Cup group stage qualifiers to September allegedly due to concerns over the new wave of COVID-19.
The African group stage qualifiers were set to be played in June 2021 have been moved to September.
In a statement by CAF, Quarantine and pre-match testing protocols have been cited as the reasons for the reconsideration with FIFA to move the fixtures.
“The CAF Emergency committee, in consultation with FIFA, decided to postpone the CAF Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 that were due to be played in June 2021,” read the statement by CAF.
“After taking into consideration the need to ensure optimal playing conditions for all participating teams, the qualifiers will now take place in the existing windows of September, October and November 2021, and March 2022,” the statement added.
“CAF is reassessing the protocols and processes to enhance the implementation of COVID-related protocols, specifically focusing on pre-match testing which had been the source of some challenges in previous windows,” the statement explained further.
As of Wednesday, Africa had recorded 1.14 million cases, with more than half of those in South Africa alone where a new variant to the pandemic was detected.
The continental governing body also said that a new and updated fixture schedule will be released in the due course.
With the changes in schedule, the preliminary group stage matches are expected to be played over three windows starting September 2021 to November 2021, with the October window which was initially set aside to cater for international friendlies now utilized.
The playoff round matches are now expected to be played by March 2022.
Forty African nations were drawn in 10 pools, from which the group winners will then advance to the five home and away playoffs where the five victors will earn a place in the 22 edition of global showpiece in Qatar in 2022.