Jul 21, 2017 Last Updated 2:00 PM, Jul 21, 2017
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Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee will meet Thursday to ratify changes agreed at its symposium held earlier in the week that include  increase the number of teams at Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) from 16 to 24 as well as the timing of the tournament from January to June or July.

The proposals were made on Tuesday during a two-day CAF symposium on the continental game’s future in Rabat, Morocco.

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has since hailed the changes, saying they are favourable.

“The proposal [to increase the teams] is very favourable as it gives more nations, Malawi included, a chance of qualifying.

“This will maximise the return on investment that governments and sponsors are making on national teams. It is value addition to sponsors as they want to benefit from investing in the national team,” said FAM president Walter Nyamilandu who attended the symposium alongside general secretary Alfred Gunda and Flames coach Ronny van Geneugden.

Once the proposal to change the tournament’s timing are ratified, Africa will align with the format of the Fifa World Cup and Euro Championship and will comprise six groups of four teams each.

The Nations Cup’s timing in January and February has long angered clubs in Europe, where many Africans play.

“That is the first thing to talk about—we can’t get away from it,” said CAF president Ahmad Ahmad.

“We have already had a lot of suggestions,” he added in his opening address.

An unprecedented number of players turned down call-ups for this year’s tournament in Gabon to stay with their clubs.

Carlsberg Cup defending champions Be Forward Wanderers on Wednesday breathed a sigh of relief when they overcame lower league side Fish Eagles’ strong resistance to sail through into the last 16.

The Nomads scraped through 6-5 after post-match penalties against the Mzuzu-based aside at Balaka Stadium after playing out a 1-all draw in regulation time.

The Nomads took the lead in the 21st minute through Harry Nyirenda but Eagles equalised 10 minutes to recess through Brian Phiri.

But the sky fell on the minnows when Gift Nyondo missed a decisive penalty and up stepped Nomads’ Yamikani Chester to provide the final flourish.

At Chilomoni Stadim in Blantyre, lower league side Michiru Madrid caused an upset when they sent Super League side Masters Security packing from the competition with a 1-0 victory via Wachimwa Sadiki’s strike.

At Mulanje Park, PremierBet Wizards bowed out on post-match penalties 3-1 after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.

Blessings Phiri put Wizards ahead before McPeter Makwale levelled the scores to send the match into the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

In other matches, Blue Eagles had a stroll in the park when they thumped Ekwendeni Hammers 6-0.

Captain Micium Mhone led by example when he claimed a hat-trick. John Malidadi Jnr scored a brace while Maxwell Salambula scored the other.

Mafco FC beat Chitedze 2-0 with goals from Calisto Kalinda andChikondi Maloya. .

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will be held in June and July, the Confederation of African Football has confirmed.

The tournament is usually held in January and February, causing disputes with European clubs who had to release players in the middle of the season.

The 2019 event in Cameroon will be contested by 24 teams, instead of 16.

The changes were rubber-stamped by the CAF executive committee in a meeting in the Moroccan capital Rabat.

Africa's flagship sporting event has featured 16 teams since 1996.

The expansion of the tournament could create problems for Cameroon, which will host the next finals, with the Central African nation's sports minister having to deny reports that preparations were behind schedule.

The competition will continue to be held every two years, in Africa and only with African countries. Caf was considering whether to allow countries from other continents to compete - or even host the tournament.

The announcements follow a two-day symposium organised by Caf president Ahmad to discuss the state of African football.

Top of Form

Aston Villa have signed full-back Ahmed Elmohamady from Hull City for £1m on three-year contract.

Elmohamady, 29, is reunited with former boss Steve Bruce after Villa activated a release clause in his Hull contract.

The Egyptian international made 218 appearances and scored 12 goals for the Tigers after initially joining them on loan from Sunderland in 2012.

He is Villa's third summer signing following former England captain John Terry  and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.

Elmohamady formerly played under Bruce for both Sunderland and Hull.

The Egyptian, who can play at both right-back and right midfield, helped win promotion from the Championship for Bruce's Hull side in both the 2012-13 and 2015-16 seasons.

Dramatic changes to Africa's top competition now await rubber-stamping by the executive committee of the Confederation of African Football (Caf) after recommendations made at a conference in Morocco on Wednesday.

The showpiece Africa Cup of Nations finals is set to be expanded and its contentious timing changed, but its frequency will remain every two years.

The tournament is likely to be moved to June and July, instead of January and February, and will increase from 16 to 24 teams.

The two annual club competitions - the African Champions League and African Confederation Cup - are likely to run from August to May rather than inside a calendar year, as has been the case for decades.

Changes to refereeing structures, coaching standards and medical preparedness were also recommended.

Caf's executive committee meets in Rabat on Thursday and is expected to formalise all the major recommendations.

"From a sporting perspective, it will allow more opportunity for footballers across the continent," said Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick.

The insistence the Nations Cup should stay in January, which has often infuriated European clubs as they lose their African players during the season, could soon be a thing of the past.

But Africa's flagship sporting event will still be played every two years as the tournament is a leading source of revenue for Caf, which would lose half of that money should the finals be played every four years, as some proposed.

There was no opposition to the change of the timing of the finals, which will please African players based at European clubs, who are regularly involved in a club-versus-country row every two years.

The increase in the number of finalists is an attempt to increase marketing and TV revenue, talking a leaf out of the book of Uefa whose European Championship increased in size in 2016.

"It will increase revenue for Caf and we can triple our income," added Pinnick. "It will also force more infrastructure development."

The symposium also recommended that requirements for hosting the Nations Cup must be increased, particularly around the issue of pitches and hotels, whose poor quality has drawn heavy criticism at recent finals.

This year's expansion of the number of clubs in the Champions League and Confederation Cup has meant the top teams in Africa have been forced to play group matches between May and July.

Usually, many of these sides would be enjoying end-of-season holidays prior to preparing for a new campaign.

The criticism of the dates has led to the recommendation that the Champions League and Confederation Cup will run from August to May - possibly as early as next year.

Similar to the European Champions League, the group phase would be finished by the end of year to allow the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals to be completed by May.

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