why afcon is played in january

Why AFCON Is Played In January: Detailed Answers Revealed

Scheduling of the AFCON to be played in January to February has become normal and the 2023 edition won’t be an exception.

The AFCON has mostly been held in January in recent years. It happens to be an unusual time as European leagues still carry on their activities while the players leave for international duty. Hence, you may wonder why AFCON is played in January despite the European football situation.

This article fully explains why the competition is always being fixed at such times of the year.

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4 Major Reasons Why AFCON Is Played In January 

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is an international men’s football championship organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF). Traditionally, AFCON has been held in odd-numbered years in January and February. Although the decision to schedule the tournament in January has been a subject of debate. 

The points below are why AFCON is played in January and the disadvantages of this scheduling decision.

1. Weather Conditions

One of the primary reasons for playing AFCON in January is the weather. Africa’s climate varies significantly from region to region, with some areas experiencing extreme heat during the summer months. 

In many African countries, the rainy season occurs during the summer, which can make it challenging to host a major football tournament. By scheduling AFCON in January, CAF aims to avoid the harsh weather conditions that could affect the quality of the matches and the safety of the players and spectators.

2. International Football Calendar 

Another factor influencing the timing of AFCON is the international football calendar. The tournament traditionally takes place during the European football season’s mid-winter break in leagues like the Spanish La Liga, allowing African players based in European clubs to participate without disrupting their club commitments significantly.

This is crucial because many of Africa’s top football talents play for European clubs, and their availability is essential to the success and visibility of AFCON.

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3. Increased Viewership 

Holding AFCON in January allows the tournament to receive greater attention and viewership.

In January, there are fewer major football competitions or events taking place globally such as the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, providing AFCON with a relatively clear stage to capture the football world’s attention.

This timing also allows African football to showcase its talent to world football without facing direct competition from other major tournaments.

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4. Commercial Opportunities 

The decision to hold AFCON in January is also a result of CAF’s efforts to maximize the commercial and marketing opportunities associated with the tournament.

By positioning the tournament in a less congested period of the football calendar, CAF can attract greater interest from sponsors, broadcasters, and advertisers, thereby enhancing the financial sustainability and appeal of AFCON.

Additionally, scheduling AFCON in January enables CAF to capitalize on the festive spirit and holiday season in many African countries.

The tournament’s timing coincides with a period when people are more likely to have time off work and be in a celebratory mood. This can contribute to increased attendance at matches and higher television viewership. 

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The Downside Of AFCON Being Played In January

Despite these advantages, there are also challenges and criticisms associated with holding AFCON in January. One of the main concerns is the impact on European clubs and their African players.

The tournament’s timing often leads to a conflict between clubs and national teams, as clubs are reluctant to release their players during the crucial midpoint of the season. This conflict can result in disputes over player availability, and potential injuries, and can affect a team’s shape and structure. 

Another issue is the potential strain on African players who participate in AFCON. The tournament’s timing means that these players have limited time to rest and recover from the physically demanding club season before representing their national teams.

This congested schedule can lead to fatigue, injuries, and reduced performance levels for players who are expected to compete at the highest level for both club and country.

In recent years, there have been discussions about moving AFCON to a different time of year to look into these concerns. Some have suggested holding the tournament in the summer to align with the European football calendar and minimize conflicts with club commitments.

However, such a change would require careful consideration of the impact on weather conditions, player welfare, and the tournament’s overall appeal and visibility.


The decision to play AFCON in January is influenced by a combination of factors, including weather considerations, the international football calendar, commercial opportunities, and much more. 

While this scheduling choice has its advantages regarding visibility, player availability, and festive advantages, it also presents challenges related to club conflicts and player welfare. 

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