Africa’s World Cup qualifiers have been thrown into crisis after a ban on numerous stadiums across the continent left many countries facing the prospect of hosting matches in June outside their borders.
The Confederation of African Football (Caf), in a circular to member associations this week, issued a list of approved stadiums for the first two rounds of group matches in June.
The list leaves eight of the 40 teams competing for places in Qatar 2022 without a venue to play their home qualifiers. Those affected include Senegal, who competed at the last World Cup in Russia in 2018, and Mali, who were among the top seeded teams for the preliminaries.
Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Niger and Sierra Leone have all not had their home stadiums approved as Caf cracks down on poor infrastructure around the continent. They now face a tight deadline to upgrade venues before the first set of matches begin on June 5 or they will have to host them elsewhere.
Senegal open their group H campaign at home to Togo in the first week of June, but their Leopold Senghor Stadium is closed for renovations and alternate venues for internationals have been declared unfit for use by Caf.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya and Uganda have had their main stadiums rejected but will be able to play at home at smaller, alternate venues.
The group phase of Africa’s World Cup preliminaries has the 40 countries divided into 10 groups of four. They will play six matches each through to October. In November, the group winners will pair off into five playoff ties with the aggregate victors qualifying for the finals in Qatar in 2022.
African football has long been blighted by poor stadium facilities and substandard pitches and Caf has steadily shown more resolve in banning venues.
In March, a similar ban on several stadiums across the continent for the last round of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers was lifted at the last minute. Caf gave no explanation for the change of heart.
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