CAIRO: Africa s ruling football body insisted on Friday there will be no going back on the timing of the Nations Cup, despite pressure from European clubs.
There was also a rebuke from the Confederation of African Football for managers in Europe who try to hold on to their African players during the finals, with CAF urging that Africans be shown more respect.
The 16-nation tournament, held every two years in January/February, has become increasingly unpopular with British, French and Spanish clubs, who can lose some of their top players for several weeks.
Hours before the 2006 final between hosts Egypt and Ivory Coast, CAF issued a statement making it clear they would not budge in the face of such pressure.
CAF said the Cup s frequency was approved by the game s ruling body FIFA and took into account the exceptional climatic conditions of the African continent on one hand and its role in improving African sports facilities, youth opportunities and social and economic development on the other.
The period regularly chosen for the Nations Cup, January and February, well away from the rainy season, is the ideal time for football for the whole of the African continent.
In a clear warning shot to European clubs, CAF said it would spare no effort in the defense of its competitions and called for closer cooperation between clubs, players and national associations.
More pointedly, CAF said: National teams are an exceptional tool for promoting African players, whose attachment to their national colors and to playing at the African Nations Cup every two years is something sacred.
CAF added: Clubs must respect the will of their players, sporting ethics and FIFA regulations … The Nations Cup is the pride of the African continent.
The rainy season hits western and central Africa in June-July, while the weather in South Africa, which will be hosting the 2010 World Cup at that time, is usually cool. For Africa, a less-frequent Cup would means less money and moving the finals to the middle of the year would preclude some countries from being host nations.
However, clubs in Europe would much prefer CAF to hold the Cup at the same time and frequency as the European championship organized by UEFA every four years in June/July. Reuters