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By ESPN Staff

Weather blamed for January African Nations kick-off

CAIRO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - CAF president Issa Hayatou says rainy weather in Africa through June and July is why the African Nations Cup cannot be moved from its controversial date in January.

Hayatou, head of the Confederation of African Football, told a pre-tournament press conference in Cairo on Wednesday that a Nations Cup in mid-year in the majority of African countries would be adversely affected by the weather.

'In the great majority of the African countries it is not possible to play a tournament like the Nations Cup at that time of the year. It would more water polo than soccer,' Hayatou said.

'We would not be able to have decent pitches to play the tournament on.'

The timing of the event continues to draw heavy criticism from European clubs and increasingly players themselves because of its clash with the league programmes in Europe.

The tournament in Egypt runs from Jan. 20 to Feb. 10.

With more than a third of the players competing at the Nations Cup drawn from European clubs, they are forced to leave their clubs at a crucial time in the league season to take part in the tournament.

Critics in recent weeks have included three managers of English Premier League clubs, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp of Portsmouth and Sam Allardyce of Bolton Wanderers, who have all lost players to the tournament.

St Etienne added its voice of criticism after a sixth player from the French club, Alaeddine Yahia, was called up as an injury replacement for Tunisia.

Hayatou, asked why FIFA had decided to award a World Cup finals, always played in mid-year, to Africa in 2010, said that weather conditions in both north and southern Africa were indeed favourable for football.

'But for the rest, it is not possible,' he said.

South Africa won the 2010 World Cup bid from Morocco, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter, speaking at the same press conference, said clubs in Europe has to show more respect to the Nations Cup tournament.

'We need more respect and discipline in the football family. Clubs are happy to take talent from Africa but when it comes time to release the players they don't want to give back to Africa,' he said.