Mendy: January Afcon 'impossible'

Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy
Edouard Mendy was Senegal's first-choice goalkeeper at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations until an injury ended his tournament

Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has told the BBC he believes the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations will be moved to June as footballers will have too many games to fit in.

There is currently much speculation as to the fate of Afcon as countries in Africa and across the world decide what do with their domestic leagues, with most of them suspended in the wake of coronavirus.

Differences in those decisions - France, where Mendy plays his domestic football, have opted to end their league, whilst Senegal's will be finished by play-offs once football is permitted again - mean finding gaps for international events is going to be incredibly complicated.

“If they want to keep the Afcon, it has to happen in June like the last one in Egypt," Mendy told BBC Sport Africa.

"Playing it in January is impossible - especially since we, the players, will all have a huge season with our clubs.”

Senegal started their qualifiers for the 2021 Afcon well, with two wins against Congo and Eswatini, but two windows for further qualifying fixtures have now been missed.

This will present further problems for schedulers.

"We have to catch up with the qualifiers games against Guinea-Bissau and Congo. So the best solution, depending on how the epidemic evolves, is to hold the tournament in June."

When football does resume, few clubs are going to have as comparatively huge a new season as Rennes - who have qualified for the Champions League for the first time, thanks to being in third place when the decision was made to end Ligue 1.

Mendy is humble about Rennes' achievement - "we are not heroes" - but he spoke about the quiet satisfaction of having secured that third place.

The players had to wait until the end of the lockdown to celebrate together.

“We enjoyed the moment quietly because we are living unprecedented times and it’s serious," he said.

"At the same time, we are proud of what we have done because it’s the result of hard work from a group of players, from the club."

The season before this shortened one, the Brittany club - without Mendy at the time, but with another Senegalese player in Mbaye Niang - made it to the latter stages of the Europa League before being stopped by Arsenal, whilst also winning the French Cup in a memorable final against Neymar’s PSG.

It ended a 48-year wait for silverware.

"The people of Rennes are proud of their players," Mendy said.

"Over the last two years, we have made constant progress - with the European Cup, the French Cup and now this third place."

Work on continuing that progress continues, despite the enforced break.

Strasbourg and Rennes are the two top-tier French clubs who decided, following the end of the lockdown in France, to gather their players at the training centre until the end of the month before sending them on leave.

“Psychologically, it’s really important for us to have this sort of preview to the pre-season," Mendy said.

"With the ball, our teammates - we can pass the ball, reconnect with our way of play.

"Can you imagine for players who were injured if you add four months of break to the recovery time? It would be too much. It was inconceivable for them to not be in training.”

Obviously, the return to the training pitch has come with a lot of new habits.

“We wear the mask from when we arrive on the training centre until we leave," Mendy explained.

"No contact with our teammates or the staff - we always think of social distancing. After the end of the training session on the pitch, we leave right away. We are not even able to go to the gym.”

With the return of Bundesliga behind closed doors, the 6 feet 4 player had a close look at other keeper’s behaviour. But he didn’t notice anything different in their attitude following the coronavirus measures.

“We are here to stop the ball - there is nothing different," he said.

"A goalkeeper can’t avoid a challenge. I can’t imagine one who would think twice about it.”