Present at a press conference to unveil his list of players for the first two days of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, Aliou Cissé was asked about the upcoming AFCON in Côte d'Ivoire and in particular certain decisions taken by the Confederation of African Football. Cissé deplored the scheduling of matches at 2pm.
Aliou Cissé is renowned for his outspokenness, and once again, he's up to his old tricks. Expected by the Senegalese press on November 10 to unveil his list of players called up for the first two days of World Cup 2026 qualifiers, the coach knew that the AFCON 2023 would be at the center of journalists' questions.With almost two months to go before the competition kicks off, the two upcoming matches against South Sudan and Togo will serve above all as a final preparation before the defense of the African championship title in Côte d'Ivoire. The Lions will defend this title in the group phase against Cameroon, Guinea and Gambia.
And just as for the 2021 edition in Gambia, the Confederation of African Football has scheduled the first matches of each day at 2pm. A schedule already criticized two years ago, without the decision-makers deigning to revise their plans. A situation deplored by the Senegalese coach. "There's no doctor who will tell you that playing at 2pm is good for the players' health. CAF has to think about these players. For the competition to be a success, we need to put the players in the best possible conditions. No coach would want to play at 2pm," said Aliou Cissé, before going on to say: "Development can't just be about stands and hotels.We have to think about the players. Especially as there are former players at CAF. They had to play at 2pm. Should we ask their opinion? I don't think they'd agree.
Sadio Mané's outburst was reminiscent of his own after the match against Guinea at the 2021 finals.
"It's not easy. It's unfortunate to play twice in a row at 1pm, when some teams haven't played at that time.It's not fair. We're not happy," Mané said at the time. In the wake of this remark about the scheduling of certain matches, Aliou Cissé pointed the finger at another decision taken by CAF. In 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the pan-African body authorized national teams to field up to 28 players. This was to enable them to have enough players available in the event of positive tests within a team.
"CAF must think of the players
But for the CAN 2023, groups will once again be limited to 23 players.A choice with which Aliou Cissé disagrees, having called on 26 players for Senegal's next two matches."Everyone is aware of the toughness of this CAN and the difficulties facing the selections (...) Between drops in form, suspensions and illnesses, CAF could have given the selections the latitude to call up 26 or 27 players," he remarked.
El Tactico would like to see more communication between CAF and the federations and technicians, so that their voice carries more weight. "I'd like CAF to ask us technicians what we think. Soccer has come a long way in terms of players, infrastructures and so on.But it would be good if we were asked for our opinion. The last edition we played at 2pm in Bafoussam. We had just been finalists in the 2019 AFCON, yet we didn't play at altitude. CAF needs to think about the players. For this AFCON 2023, there is no doubt that no changes will be made, except in cases of force majeure. However, it remains to be seen whether his message will be heard in the future.