By Mark Gleeson
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Confederation of African Football President Issa Hayatou has rejected any possibility of changing the timing of the African Nations Cup Finals despite the problems it poses for European-based players and their clubs.
Hayatou, speaking at the opening of the Confederation's Congress in Ethiopia on Thursday, also said he expected the continent to get 10 spots at the expanded 48-team World Cup.
Hayatou said the CAF would not “be dictated to by outside forces” with respect to the Nations Cup finals and that the schedule was determined by climatic conditions.
The timing of the tournament every two years in January draws criticism from European clubs, who lose their African players at a crucial stage of the season. Players are often caught in the middle of the club v country rows.
“Never sway from the path that has been pioneered,” he told African member associations as the organisation celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Hayatou, who faces a strong challenge for re-election later on Thursday, also said Africa expected 10 places in the revamped World Cup from 2026. Earlier, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told the Congress the continent could expect nine or 10 places.
“Our expectation of 10 is based on the level of development of football and considering what our continent means to FIFA. We are certain of attaining this objective,” Hayatou said.
Africa would also seek more places at FIFA’s age group competition and criticised the decision of world football’s governing body to close two of its development offices on the continent. Hayatou said the new commercial and television partnership signed with Lagardere Sports of France would guarantee $1 billion to African football over the next eight years. “We want to create an environment where Africans don’t have to travel abroad to attain their dreams,” he added. Infantino said it was time African football realized its potential.
“I have heard for a long time that the future is Africa but we have now make sure the future becomes the present,” he said.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)