AFCON 2025: Morocco to Host Historic Holiday Tournament

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AFCON 2025 held in Morocco from December 21 to January 18.
First AFCON to run through Christmas and New Year.
Domestic and European leagues face significant scheduling disruptions.
Defending champions Cote d’Ivoire and rising Rwanda generate excitement.

The 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is set to make history, not only for the host country but also for its unique scheduling. Held in Morocco from December 21, 2025, to January 18, 2026, this will be the first time the tournament runs through the festive period of Christmas and New Year. This change, announced by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on a recent Friday, marks a significant shift from the traditional January-February timeline.

A Festive First for AFCON

Traditionally, AFCON has taken place between January and February. However, the decision to shift the tournament to late December introduces a festive twist. Fans will enjoy football fever alongside holiday celebrations, creating a unique atmosphere. This scheduling also aligns with the holiday breaks in many African and European leagues, potentially increasing viewership and fan engagement.

Impact on Domestic and International Leagues

The rescheduling of AFCON to December-January is not without its challenges. Domestic leagues across Africa, such as Kenya’s FKF Premier League, will face disruptions. Historically, the Kenyan league took a two-week break over Christmas and New Year, resuming in early January. With the new AFCON dates, the league will need to pause earlier and resume later if Kenya’s Harambee Stars qualify for the tournament.

For European clubs, this timing means releasing African players during a crucial part of their season. The impact on club performance could be significant, particularly for teams heavily reliant on African talent. However, this also offers a chance for less utilized squad members to step up.

The Defending Champions and Rising Contenders

Cote d’Ivoire enters AFCON 2025 as the defending champions, having triumphed on home soil in February 2024. Their victory was a testament to their footballing prowess and determination. As they aim to defend their title, all eyes will be on them to see if they can replicate their success in Morocco.

Meanwhile, Rwanda is generating buzz under the leadership of German coach Torsten Spittler. The team has shown impressive form, and fans are hopeful they will qualify for AFCON for the first time since 2004. Rwanda’s journey to the tournament will be closely watched, as they seek to make a mark on the continental stage.

Kenya’s Road to AFCON

For Kenya, the AFCON qualifiers present both a challenge and an opportunity. The draw for the AFCON 2025 will be conducted on July 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa, with qualifying matches starting in September. If Kenya qualifies, the FKF Premier League will face an extended break to allow the national team to prepare and participate.

The composition of Kenya’s squad will be crucial. Coach Engin Firat has been known to select a mix of local and foreign-based players. Key local players like goalkeepers Patrick Matasi and Bryne Omondi, defenders Rooney Onyango and Aboud Omar, midfielder Kenneth Muguna, and striker Benson Omala are likely to feature prominently. The extent to which the local league is disrupted will depend on the number of local players selected.

Previous Champions

2023: Cote d’Ivoire
2021: Senegal
2019: Algeria
2017: Cameroon
2015: Cote d’Ivoire
2013: Nigeria
2012: Zambia
2010: Egypt
2008: Egypt
2006: Egypt

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