President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, has said that the schedule of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), was changed for the benefit of footballers from the continent.
Pinnick has also denied that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was pressured by Europe to make the alteration.
“It was a full African idea and not any pressure from Europe,” the AFCON chairman told CNN.
“We took Africa into cognisance. We took the players, their welfares, their future and also the future of other African players that would be possibly going to Europe which you must agree has the biggest leagues in the world.”
Pinnick also dismissed talks of CAF taking the AFCON out of Africa.
“Taking the AFCON outside Africa is not debatable. I don’t know who brought up that idea,” he said
“AFCON is a pride of Africa. It is the symbol of African unity. So there is no way we would take it out of Africa, not in the foreseeable future.
“We want the issue of the more the merrier,” he said on the expansion of teams in the AFCON from 16 to 24.
Pinnick added: “Our argument is based on sporting and commercial benefits. What are the sporting benefits?
“There will be more recognition for African players, their worth will now be well pronounced because if you look at when they are negotiating their contracts, they take into cognizance that critical period between January and February.
“So now African players know they can now play from the beginning of their different championships (league games) till the end.
“For the commercial value, there will be more visibility for brands and that money can now be used to develop and throw around the small African countries.”