Onazi welcomes new Afcon schedule

Onazi welcomes new Afcon schedule
July 24 09:53 2017

Super Eagles midfielder, Ogenyi Onazi, has predicted that moving the Africa Cup of Nations to summer time will ease tension between African players and their European clubs.

Confederation of African Football (Caf) confirmed that the tournament will be held in June and July instead of January and February and will be expanded to 24 teams from 16, starting from Cameroon 2019.

“When you finish a [Nations Cup] game and if you finish before the finals, your [club] team has to give you a phone call and you need to come back immediately,” Onazi told BBC Sport.

“Even when we won the Afcon in 2013, my team called me immediately, saying that I should fly from South Africa down to the club because we have a Europa League game. “I told them it’s not possible because we’d just won the tournament.

“I needed to go back to my country and try to see what we were going to do there – and then I’d come back,” Onazi said.

Onazi, who played a key role in helping Nigeria lift the trophy four years ago, says the new changes will also take away any uncertainty surrounding the availability of players.

“I’ve heard about experiences of other players too – they [clubs] don’t allow them to come. “They just tell them when it’s like two to three days to the tournament and then they allow them to come – and this has been the difficulty,” Onazi added.

The expansion of the Africa Cup of Nations – which will now be contested by 24 teams instead of 16 – has also been welcomed by Onazi.

“It’s another good innovative for some of those African countries that were not able to make it while it was 16 [teams] or so,” Onazi explained.

“Now they’ll have the opportunity to exhibit themselves because you never can tell…a little country will have some great talents but because they are not able to make it to the 16 you are not able to see those talents. But now they have an opportunity to come in, and for me it’s also good for their own development,” he said.