The delayed 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN), the tournament for home-based players, kicks off in Cameroon on 16 January.
The Local Organising Committee says it is ready to host the tournament and are putting the final touches in place ahead of Saturday’s opener.
It will be the continent’s biggest football championships since the outbreak of Covid-19 and here is everything you need to know about the event.
What is CHAN?
The CHAN is a competition that happens every two years, shining a light on local club players in Africa.
Only footballers playing in their own local leagues across Africa are eligible to play in the tournament, which was first held in 2009.
After the first edition, which was hosted in 2009 in Ivory Coast, the tournament expanded from eight to 16 teams.
Cameroon is hosting the sixth edition and the competition, initially set to be held in April 2020, was shifted to 16 January-7 February by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
CHAN during Covid-19
In order for the event to go ahead during the pandemic, the Cameroon government and Caf have put in place some strict regulations.
According to tournament manager Michael Disake, screening for Covid-19 will start for players, delegates and officials as soon as they arrive at the airport.
Some of the new rules that Caf and Fifa have put in place include having one player per room in hotel accommodations as opposed to two.
Meanwhile, teams – which will be tested 48 hours before every match – are allowed to have 10 players on a waiting list to replace anyone in the 23-man squad who tests positive for coronavirus.
Another modification means stadium grounds will be filled to just 25 per cent capacity for group stage matches, but this figure could double for the semi-finals and final if fans keep their masks on, maintain social distancing and follow Covid-19 guidelines.
Separatist groups have issued threats and warnings to local authorities about not wanting football in their territory and they claim to have notified teams of their intentions.
These threats were issued after three attacks happened in the north-west region and kidnappings in the south-west region.
Tournament coordinator Disake says he has read about the threats and it is something security officials will be handling.
In a meeting with the defence minister last week, officials have heightened security around hotels, transport and training grounds.
The winner of the tournament will receives US$1.25 million, an increase from the $700,000 handed out in 2018 by Caf. The runners-up now receive $700,000, with the third-place and fourth-placed teas taking home $400,000 and $300,000 respectively.
Morocco are the current champions after lifting the title on home soil in 2018.
DR Congo, meanwhile, is the only nation to have won the title twice after taking the inaugural edition in 2009 before winning again in 2016 (in Rwanda).
Tunisia were winners of the second edition in Sudan in 2011, with another North African nation, Libya, surprising many to win in South Africa three years later.
Three cities and a total of four stadiums will host the competition.
Yaounde will host Group A in the 40,000-seat Amadou Ahidjo Stadium. Groups B and C will play in Douala, at the 40,000-seat Bepanda stadium and the newly-constructed 50,000-seat Japoma Stadium respectively. Limbe and the 20,000-seat Omniport Stadium welcome Group D.
Group A: Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe
Group B: Libya, Niger, DR Congo, Congo
Group C: Morocco, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda
Group D: Zambia, Guinea, Namibia, Tanzania
Tickets went on sale on 11 January on a first-come, first-served basis until the 25% quota was filled. The price of tickets, which will not be available at stadiums on match days, ranges from $1.85 to $92.55.
Among the places people can buy tickets are petrol stations, kiosks at stadiums and at the Ministry of Sports itself in Yaounde.
There will be fan zones in all the host cities, with large screens for fans who cannot get into the stadiums. Supporters will also be able to purchase merchandising and refreshments from stalls in the fan areas.