AFCON 2019: South Africa, Morocco frontrunners to host

South Africa and Morocco are two frontline contenders to step in as hosts for the AFCON 2019, after Confederation of African Football(CAF) stripped Cameroon of the rights on Friday, because of insecurity and inadequate facilities.

Morocco, who lost out to a United States/Mexico/Canada bid to host the 2026 World Cup, have regularly been reported as possible replacements.

The North Africans had been set to stage the 2015 Cup of Nations before being stripped of its hosting rights in a row over the Ebola outbreak.

South Africa is the only African country to stage a World Cup, in 2010, and last staged the Cup of Nations in 2013.

“I know that there are countries which are interested, rest assured, candidate countries will come forward,” said Ahmad Ahmad, CAF President.

“We know there won’t be many (new candidates) but we will leave the task force to evaluate them and to set up visits in order to select the organisers of the CAN by the end of the year”.

Alarm bells were sounded over the 2019 event at a September executive committee meeting in Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh when CAF noted “a significant delay in the realisation of the infrastructures” necessary for holding the Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

A report of the last two inspection visits to central African state Cameroon were made at Friday’s meeting.

CAF inspectors recently travelled to the country, which last hosted the tournament in 1972, to check security, infrastructure, stadiums and accommodation.

Cameroon is experiencing a tense security situation with persistent attacks by Boko Haram jihadists in the north and a conflict between the army and separatists in the two English-speaking regions.

That recalls the trauma that preceded the 2010 Cup of Nations in Angola, when the Togo team bus was attacked with three dead two days before the opening match.

Ahmad observed: “Football in Africa depends on our governments. But our priority is to look after the interests of our actors and above all our players.

“I don’t know whether there are statistics but many have been injured during CANs due to the condition of the organisation.”

The Cup of Nations is no stranger to dramatic subplots.

In 1995 Kenya withdrew as hosts, citing financial difficulties, with South Africa stepping in and going on to be crowned champions.

South Africa also took over holding the 2013 tournament after original hosts Libya had pulled out two years earlier because of the armed conflict then raging in the country.

Equitorial Guinea stepped in to the breach in 2015 when original hosts Morocco had appealed in vain for the competition to be delayed because of the Ebola epidemic.

Ahmad meanwhile appeared to hold out an olive branch to Cameroon.

“CAF is committed to supporting Cameroon, to give them time so that they can properly organise a CAN,” he told reporters.

He refused to be drawn on whether that meant Cameroon could replace Ivory Coast as hosts of the 2021 edition, or be designated as organisers in 2023.

The 2019 event is scheduled for June 15-July 13, a change from its traditional January-February slot.

And it will be the first to feature 24 teams — up from 16 at the 2017 edition in Gabon.

*AFP

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