The ravaging effects of coronavirus continue to control how the game of football is run and more than a year after the initial Covid-19 cases were reported, the game continues to suffer. Right now, it is time for African football to feel the heat, and take the hit as the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers take shape.

 

A FIFA circular to its members in 2020 gave clubs the right to hold on to players in one of its Covid-19 protocols, in the event that players will have to quarantine upon returning from official national team duties. Ahead of the current qualifiers, which are set to take off on Wednesday 24th March, the same has been reiterated.

 

Clubs have jumped at the directive, which has left national federations at the mercy of the clubs in Europe where their key players ply their trade. While some national teams have been granted the right to use their players, it has been followed with conditions that would dictate how the nations use the players for the AFCON qualification matches. Others have been denied releases completely and will spend the international break at their clubs.

 

Four-time African champions Ghana are set to miss a number of their top players for a very crucial AFCON qualification game against South Africa, based on that directive from FIFA. Ghana has to travel to South Africa for a game that could make or break their journey to the AFCON finals, but they will be without Arsenal’s Thomas Partey, Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew, and Andre Ayew of Swansea among many others.

 

Their absence is dictated by the fact that they would have to quarantine for 10 days upon return in England if they travel to South Africa one of the countries on the UK red zone.

 

Now, missing key players against South Africa, means they are at a disadvantage for this crucial game and in a fixture that Ghana really dominates, South Africa pass as favorites now. In this match’s preview, SportyTrader backs South Africa for a win, which is well informed by the fact that while Ghana miss their top players, the hosts will have all their top men available, including Percy Tau, who plays for Brighton in the Premier League.

 

The best offer on this game is at 22Bet, who have 2.32 on a South Africa win, 2.97 on a draw, while a Ghana win is backed at 3.26.

 

Ghana are top of the group jointly with South Africa on 9 points but a lot can change in a snap if the West Africans lose here. In the other Group C game, Sudan, who have six points, face the whipping boys Sao Tome and are guaranteed of a win. Having beaten Ghana earlier, Sudan could go above Ghana after Match Day 5.

 

The directive from FIFA empowering clubs over the national associations has not caused havoc only in Africa; in South America, CONMEBOL has been forced to call off all 2022 World Cup qualification matches that had been scheduled for Thursday and the weekend. This is after clubs in Europe declined to release players for international duty, backed by the FIFA move.