Sadio Mane will be crowned king of Africa while problems rumble

JOHANNESBURG: Liverpool sharpshooter Sadio Mane he is expected to become the first African football 2020 director by winning the Player of the Year award in Egypt next week.

The January 7 ceremony will begin a year that will surely be full of drama on and off the field with the qualifiers of the 2022 World Cup and the 2021 Nations Cup in the mix.

Here's a look at some of the issues facing the most popular sport in a continent where good football ers and bad administrators often share the media stage.

Consistent Liverpool scorer and Senegal talisman Mane is favored to become the second star from his country after El Hadji Diouf to be named Player of the Year.

His rivals are Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah, the Egyptian who won the last two editions, and Algerian Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City.

The Player of the Year, and the winners of seven other male and female categories, will be announced at a ceremony at the Egyptian Red Sea complex in Hurghada.

A couple of weeks after the awards banquet, Egypt will organize another highly anticipated event, the draw in Cairo for the group stage of the World Cup qualification.

The latest FIFA rankings are expected to determine the seeds, which means that Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon, Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be in the first pot.

All those nations, except Mali, have played in the World Cup, and an Ivory Coast team that can resort to Wilfried Zaha's dazzling footwork could be the second most dangerous seed.

The problem is coming after a change of a tournament from January/February to June/July this year to avoid jerks of wars between clubs and countries for the services of stars based in Europe.

The first renewed Club World Cup, with 24 teams, is scheduled for June 17 to July 4, 2021 in China, ruling out a mid-year Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Senior CAF officials say it is likely to return to the dates of January/February, and with the possibility that an increasing number of players put the clubs first.

Tunisia have reportedly decided because of fixture congestion to withdraw from the 2020 edition in Cameroon of the tournament for football ers playing in their country of birth.

Traditionally a biennial competition of January/February, it is scheduled from April 4 to 25 of this year in three cities in southern Cameroon, the capital, Yaounde, Douala and Limbe.

The 16-nation championship will test Cameroon's readiness to host the Nations Cup next year after construction delays led them to be replaced by Egypt as hosts for 2019.

The Tunisian club Esperance has been erratic in seeking a third consecutive unprecedented title, fighting to beat a Chadian club and then challenging the odds of defeating Raja in Casablanca.

They have lost several winning stars of the title in 2019, including Algeria's end Youcef Belaili, and the initial line-up for a group match last weekend included only four Tunisians.

The eight-time champions, Al Ahly of Egypt, TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa and the clubs of Casablanca Raja and Wydad are potential threats.

This year a new name will be recorded in the trophy, as recent winners Ahly, Etoile Sahel from Tunisia, Mazembe, Raja and Zamalek from Egypt compete in the Champions League.

Judging by the formation of the group up to half, the pyramids of Cairo could become the third Egyptian winners of a competition inspired by the UEFA Europa League.

Emirati Salem al Shamsi has invested millions in a squad dominated by Egyptians but also contains stars from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Uganda.

Zamalek threatens to boycott the February 14 game against Esperance scheduled for Qatar, a country that Egypt accuses of destabilizing the Middle East region.

The controversial president of the club, Mortada Mansour, says that Zamalek will change his position only if the government orders it.

I do not understand why CAF wants to organize the party in an enemy country of Egypt. We are African clubs, why should we play in Asia? Mansour asked during a press conference.

The six-month service commission of the FIFA general secretary, Fatma Samoura, to the CAF plagued by crisis ends on January 31 and there will be great interest in the progress made by Senegalese.

Her brief was to introduce reforms, notably in governance, competitions and refereeing, to an organisation World Soccer magazine labelled the "biggest basket case in football ".

Attending Samoura is the president of CAF, Ahmad Ahmad, who has not commented on several accusations against him, including corruption, financial appropriation and sexual harassment.

There have been no transmissions in sub-Saharan Africa of the CAF national team and club matches since November after a 12-year television deal with a French company was canceled.

Lagardere Sports paid a million dollars (890,000 euros) in 2017 for television and marketing rights, but separate sentences ruled that the agreement was illegal because there was no bidding process.

Desperate football followers have resorted to streaming, but fixture options are limited and the high cost of internet data is an additional obstacle.

comments