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'AFCON Qualifiers Should Be Postponed'

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that are set to take place later this month could be postponed following the outbreak of the coronavirus, and former Free State Stars coach Tom Saintfiet, who is now in charge of Gambia, has called on CAF to protect the players.

Read: Ex-International Footballer Has Coronavirus

Saintfiet was speaking ahead of Gambia's match against Gabon later this month when he revealed that a number of his nation's players were at risk of infection in countries such as Italy, and that it would be unfair to play the qualifiers in such circumstances. 

"We cannot expect to play qualification games when some countries can't use many of their best players – not because of injuries or personal reasons, but because of an international problem," Saintfiet told BBC Sport.

"Now we are talking about Italy, but there are also other European countries, like France and even Belgium where coronavirus is increasing a lot.

"We don't know how soon it will go. Maybe in one week's time, there will be parts of France also in quarantine and many African players who play in France will also be having consequences from that."

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The 46-year-old suggested that the matches could be rescheduled for June without having a negative effect on the international calendar or on tournament preparations. 

"I think it would be very wise for CAF to follow FIFA's guidelines – what they did in Asia – to postpone the games for March and June," Saintfiet added.

"Maybe we can postpone only the March games for now – as soon as possible – so that people don't have extra costs, and also have time to plan. We still have dates (available).

"Normally, in June, there is only one qualification game, so we could easily play two in June, and two in September, and then the four last AFCON qualifiers would be finished on the same date that they would have finished before.

"So if you look to the health of the public, of African people, of our players and staff members – around travelling, taking risks, importing the virus from Europe, and maybe also having the top players not travel, which could have consequences on the performances of teams, and could be an unfair battle – I think it would be very correct, fair and professional to decide as soon as possible to postpone the games."

Read: Breaking: LaLiga Suspended, Real Madrid Under Quarantine

Do you agree that the March AFCON qualifiers should be postponed? Share your thoughts by commenting in the section below. 

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