Dates for Afcon 2025 and Wafcon 2024 finals announced

Simon Adingra and Max Gradel kiss the Africa Cup of Nations trophy

The 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) will be held in December 2025 and January 2026 while the 2024 Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) has been postponed until July next year.

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has announced the 2025 Afcon, to be hosted by Morocco, will begin on 21 December and the final will be on 18 January.

The scheduling will see the 24-team finals overlap with the Premier League's festive programme and take place between match rounds in the Uefa Champions League.

It will be the first time in Nations Cup history that the tournament will kick off in December and run over the Christmas and New Year period.

The 2024 Wafcon, also set to be held in Morocco, will take place between 5 and 26 July next year.

Caf had previously committed to stage its flagship men's tournament at the end of the European club season, in a June-July slot, but those dates next year will clash with Fifa's inaugural 32-team Club World Cup.

It remains to be seen whether Europe's top clubs will agree to release players for the 2025 Nations Cup, with both the club and international calendars increasingly congested.

The 2026 World Cup will be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico in June and July that year, with nine African sides guaranteed to be at the expanded 48-team tournament.

Under the world governing body's rules on the release of players it appears clubs are within their rights to block players going to either the Nations Cup or the World Cup later in 2026.

"It is not compulsory to release the same player for more than one "A" representative team final competition per year," Fifa's regulations on the status and transfer of players state.

Earlier this month the Professional Footballers' Association joined a legal action against Fifa over the "overloaded and unworkable" football calendar, including the creation of the expanded Club World Cup.

Afcon squeezed into calendar again

Last month Caf secretary general Veron Mosengo-Omba told BBC Sport Africa the tournament organisers had faced a "scheduling nightmare".

He added that Caf had been in discussions with European counterpart Uefa, world governing body Fifa and the European Club Association to find a suitable date for the 2025 Afcon finals - and that player welfare would be considered in their decision.

Caf’s statutes say that both the men's and women's Nations Cups should be held once every two years - rather than once every four as is the case with most major championships organised by other confederations.

The past two editions of Afcon have been held in January and February, leading to 'club versus country' rows.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the 2021 finals in Cameroon being pushed back to early 2022, and then the 2023 edition in Ivory Coast was played at the start of this year to avoid the rainy season in West Africa.

Caf president Patrice Motespe said announcing the dates for the 2025 Afcon took "much longer than expected" because of "complex and at times challenging discussions" with interested parties.

"Caf is committed to protecting and advancing the interests of African players playing in clubs in Europe and worldwide," he added.

"We will continue to make significant progress in developing and ensuring that African football is globally competitive and amongst the best in the world."

The qualifying group draw for the 2025 Afcon will be made on 4 July, with qualifiers set to be played in September, October and November.

Hosts Morocco will be included in the draw but, given the Atlas Lions are already assured of qualification, only one team in their group will book a ticket to North Africa.

Wafcon finals delayed

South Africa Women celebrate with the Women's Africa Cup of Nations trophy
South Africa are the holders of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations [Getty Images]

A delay in holding Wafcon will again raise questions about Caf’s commitment to the women’s game – given that the 2020 edition was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic while the men’s 2021 tournament was merely postponed.

Deciding when to hold the 12-team 2024 Wafcon finals was complicated by the fact that record nine-time winners Nigeria and Zambia will be participating in the Paris Olympics this July and August.

Speaking before the announcement by Caf was made, Nigeria international Desire Oparanozie told BBC Sport Africa that a delay would set the women’s game in Africa back.

“Not having this tournament when we should have it is going to take us maybe 10 steps backward,” the forward said.

“When it comes to women's football, we're still trying to get to where we need to be.

“I think, first of all, it’s [a] lack of prioritising women's football in Africa, because you can't tell me it's the same thing when it comes to the men.”

Qualifying for the 2024 Wafcon was completed last December, which means players and coaches will have waited over 18 months for the finals by the time the tournament starts.

Earlier this month Desiree Ellis, coach of reigning women’s continental champions South Africa, was critical of Caf’s handling of the situation.

“If it (Wafcon) is postponed or cancelled, it will be a huge, huge disappointment,” the 61-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

Caf president Motsepe said he was "impressed" by the growth of women's football on the continent.

"I am expecting the Wafcon Morocco 2024 to be immensely successful," he added.