Rumblings of discontent are emerging in African soccer’s hazy administrative portals before CAF announce the emergency replacement venue for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
However, the initial dissatisfaction is not from Cameroon who have been deprived of the tournament because of inadequate facilities or Egypt and South Africa who are vying as the replacement, but from the Ivory Coast and Guinea whose hosting of future AFCONs have been affected by this year’s change.
When CAF took the late decision to revoke Cameroon’s hosting of the 2019 Nations Cup because of inadequate stadiums and related facilities for the competition, the country was assured it would be granted the right to host the 2021 version instead of the Ivory Coast, resulting in the Ivory Coast being shunted to staging the 2023 event and the designated 2023 holders, Guinea, switched to holding the tournament in 2025.
Well and good for CAF to summarily make the radical changes at the drop of a hat. But, for understandable reasons, the Ivory Coast and Guinea are anything but over the moon by the hosting merry-go-round, with the Ivory Coast Football Federation having already appealed to the Court for Arbitration in Sport to declare the hosting changes as it affected them as invalid and Guinea soccer president Mamadou Antonio Souare complaining that “they have not as much as informed us officially of the changes and left us to gather all the news second-hand.”
Meanwhile, the immediate conundrum among African soccer nations is whether Egypt or South Africa will be designated with the tricky task of organising an AFCON event that has been increased from 16 to 24 teams at little more than five months’ notice – with initial hosting replacement favourites Morocco withdrawing from the race because of the mushrooming problems it would generate for the country at such short notice.
SAFA president Danny Jordaan, a demon for the limelight, was understandably imbued by the prospect of South Africa organising the country’s third AFCON – the previous two as replacement hosts as well – and immediately revealed that CAF had asked the country to hold this year’s tournament, something which CAF president Ahmad Ahmad later disputed.
Ahmad asserted that all CAF member nations who believed they were suitably willing and able to replace Cameroon in staging the Nations Cup in June and July had been requested to forward their applications to the continent’s ruling soccer body, with Egypt and South Africa the only two countries to come forward.
Jordaan pointed out that after successfully staging the 2010 World Cup and with almost all the stadiums for the global extravaganza still available, South Africa boasted the best-equipped playing facilities in Africa.
But organising an event of the dimension of the Nations Cup extends well beyond playing facilities alone and SAFA’s current financial situation is clearly shaky following the revelation that the organisation suffered a R18 million loss during the past financial year – meaning that the South African government would have to bear the brunt of tournament costs that have been estimated variously in the region of R150 million and more.
A viewpoint exists that the country is currently faced with a number of pressing problems that suggests the money would be better utilised in correcting these issues, with government comment on funding the Nations Cup having been more or less muted up to this stage.
“But we are going ahead and waiting expectantly for the outcome,” said SAFA Public Relations head, Dominic Chimhavi.
“We believe that is what our fans want.”
And hosting the Nations Cup could be a boost for South Africa in one significant respect, with Bafana Bafana then automatically qualifying for the tournament.
At this juncture the national team needs to avoid defeat in a final qualifying game against Libya in March to avoid being replaced by their opponents among the final 24 qualifiers.
Egypt will make it to the finals either way and apparently only put their hosting application forward in order to keep the event in North Africa after Morocco’s stepping down.
Reports have suggested that much of Morocco’s support will now fall behind Egypt, who are multi-Nations Cup winners.
But Chimhavi says SAFA remain optimistic at the prospect of hosting world class players of the calibre of Mohamed Salah (Egypt and Liverpool), Sadio Mane (Senegal and Liverpool) and Alex Iwobi (Nigeria and Arsenal) in what would be a timely boost for soccer in the country.
Source: Sy Lerman