Why is AFCON in January? Africa Cup of Nations 2023 midseason tournament timing explained

The Africa Cup of Nations gets underway in Ivory Coast on January 13, leaving some fans of European football puzzled at the timing due to it being in the middle of their club calendar.

The tournament was originally due to be played in the summer of 2023, but the president of the African Football Confederation (CAF), Patrice Motsepe, made the decision to move the competition after concerns regarding the weather conditions in the West African nation during that time.

The Ivory Coast generally experiences a rainy season between June and October, which could have put matches at risk of postponement had the AFCON been held in June and July.

Motsepe said the following on the change: “We took a lot of advice and we decided we cannot take a risk. We don’t want to run the risk of that our top competition is going to be washed out.”

However, the tournament in 2024 is not the first to be staged from January to February.

MORE: Which Premier League stars are headed to AFCON and will miss games?

Why is AFCON in January?

AFCON tends to be scheduled in January for several reasons. The most obvious one is that this timing tends to align with more favourable weather conditions across much of Africa.

January and February generally sees milder temperatures, ensuring the safety of the players and minimising the impact of extreme heat. For the 2023 finals, staging them in early 2024 also avoids the event being impacted by the Ivory Coast’s rainy season.

Hosting the tournament during this period also coincides with the mid-season break that many European football leagues have, and puts it before such leagues as MLS and the top divisions in Argentina and Brazil have started for the year. This allows African players who compete in these leagues to participate without significantly disrupting their club commitments, although it is, of course, impossible for some not to miss out on some club matches.

Holding AFCON in January also avoids conflicts with other major international football tournaments, such as the FIFA World Cup, or the European Championship or Copa America, both of which take place in June in 2024.

Africa Cup of Nations 2023 round dates, schedule in 2024

Hosts Ivory Coast will kick off the opening fixture against Guinea-Bissau on January 13 in Abidjan.

The Round of 16 starts on January 27, with the quarterfinal and semifinals beginning on February 2 and 7 respectively.

Africa Cup of Nations 2023 schedule
Round Date
Group Stage  January 13-24, 2024
Round of 16 January 27-30, 2024
Quarterfinal February 2-3, 2024
Semifinal February 7, 2024
Third place playoff February 10, 2024
Final February 11, 2024

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