Africa Cup of Nations under-17 tournament cancelled five days before kick off

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced the cancellation of the 14th edition of the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations, five days before the tournament was due to kick off in Morocco, due to challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was taken at a meeting of CAF's Emergency Committee in Rabat on Monday, and comes on the back of FIFA's announcement in December that the Under-17 World Cup had been cancelled. The AFCON had been set to provide African qualifiers for that tournament.

"The committee was made aware of the constraints faced by some of the participating member associations as well as the host country, including the fact that the coronavirus pandemic continues to present significant challenges for the organisation of international sporting events," CAF said in a statement seen by ESPN.

As well as the cancellation of the Under-17 World Cup being a factor, CAF outlined "the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased restrictions on international travel, uncertainty about the evolution of the situation," as being further influences on its decision.

Since the turn of the year, CAF has overseen the organisation of the African Nations Championship, the tournament for home-based players, in Cameroon, as well as the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations that concluded in Mauritania on Saturday.

- The next Salah? African wonderkids to watch after U20 AFCON
- Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
- ESPN+ viewer's guide: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and more

"Each country has its protocol and CAF has always explained that it acknowledges the protocol chosen by each government, CAF director of communications Alex Siewe told ESPN, explaining why a different approach was being taken for the under-17 tournament.

"It is the governments who are responsible for the health of their populations and of the health politics of the country."

CAF denied rumours that Tanzania had been lined up as an alternative to Morocco as host nation, but confirmed the option of postponing the tournament until the summer had been under consideration until Monday.

"There were two camps: Those who were for postponement, and those who were for cancellation," Siewe told ESPN.

"Until the afternoon, it was the camp who supported postponement in July who carried the issue; Morocco were ready to welcome in July, but no one knew how that coronavirus situation would evolve.

"Ultimately, those who voted to cancel carried the issue."

The decision has echoes of Morocco's withdrawal from hosting the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations due to an Ebola pandemic, although on that occasion an alternative host was found in Equatorial Guinea.

Hosts Morocco had been pitted against Uganda, Zambia and the Ivory Coast in Group A of the Under-17 AFCON, with Nigeria, Algeria, Congo-Brazzaville and Tanzania in Group B of the tournament, which was due to conclude on Mar. 31.

Holders Cameroon had been drawn to face Senegal, Mali and South Africa in Group C.

On Friday, the heads of Africa's member associations will convene in Rabat to appoint a new CAF president, with South Africa's Patrice Motsepe set to replace outgoing Ahmad Ahmad unopposed.

Mauritania's Ahmed Yahya, Ivory Coast's Jacques Anouma and Senegal's Augustin Senghor are all reported to have have withdrawn from the election having previously announced their candidacy.