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New host needed
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 29 - 11 - 2018

With only seven months to go for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Confédération Africaine de Football (CAF) has decided that Cameroon was not qualified to host the next edition.
At an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee in Accra, Ghana on 30 November CAF President Ahmed Ahmed said that “after significant debate and having received detailed updates from numerous inspection visits over nearly 18 months, CAF has noted that a number of compliance conditions have not been met.
“In addition, after having heard from representatives of the governmental and sports authorities of Cameroon, and reviewed the latest progress on preparations, CAF notes the gap between the requirements of hosting the AFCON and realities on the ground.
“Furthermore, after hearing the conclusions of the CAF security inspection team during their most recent visit to Cameroon, CAF concludes that the Africa Cup of Nations could not be exposed to any issues that could impact on the success of the most prestigious African competition.
“After having considered that a simple postponement of the tournament was impossible because of CAF's contractual commitments, and the importance of maintaining the competition calendar, the CAF Executive Committee decided that the next edition of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations could not be held in Cameroon,” Ahmed said.
This decision, without appeal, will mean that CAF will now initiate an open and urgent call for new host country bids to ensure AFCON 2019 takes place next summer.
CAF will ensure that a new host is in place by 31 December 2018, and said it will communicate openly and transparently on the process and subsequent decision.
CAF reiterates that Cameroon remains a serious candidate to organise a future edition of AFCON, and acknowledges that Cameroon has mobilised significant resources and worked tirelessly to host AFCON 2019.
“CAF unequivocally reiterates its strong commitment to work closely with Cameroon's government authorities to mutually agree a new AFCON framework and timetable – should it agree to host a future edition,” the CAF president concluded.
The shocking news of the change of venue of the tournament, which is set to be the first held in June and July instead of January and February, was an unexpected blow to the Cameroonians and the world of football with six months to go for the finals, especially after CAF had on several occasions shown its support for Cameroon as a host.
The 2019 edition will also see an expansion of the participating teams from 16 to 24 countries.
While there has been no official reaction from the Cameroonian federation so far, there has been bitter disappointment expressed on social media, especially Twitter. Some believed Cameroon wasn't ready and could never have been host to the tournament. For them, CAF's decision was based on several negative reports about Cameroon's preparations which forced CAF to strip it of being host instead of letting the tournament go ahead and be humiliated on the global stage.
Others believe that it was unfair to Cameroonians because apart from public investments, individuals have had to loan sums of money to either build or renovate hotels and set up businesses. Now, they seek compensation but from whom?
The big question in Cameroon is where is plan B when the CAF boss had said there was no plan B. This is not the first time African football's governing body has changed the venue of an AFCON host nation. Previous reasons have included either security or organisation. The last edition in 2017 was to be held in South Africa but was then moved to Gabon.
Reports have it that South Africa, Morocco and Egypt are considering hosting the tournament. Morocco stepped in to hold this year's African Nations Championship after Kenya were deemed not ready. However, Egyptian officials have denied considering the possibility of hosting the Nations Cup. “Maybe in the future, but not 2019,” said Egyptian Football Association board member Magdi Abdel-Ghani. Another EFA board member, Karam Kordi, told a morning radio programme “why would we consider it when it is already determined that Morocco is the replacement?”
Until a new host is selected, it is likely that the process will affect the finals. According to CAF, bids are to be submitted until 31 December, which means that CAF officials would need at least two or three months for meetings and inspection visits. Since the draw is not to be held earlier than April, that gives the teams only one or two months at most to prepare for the final stage of the one-month tournament, from mid-June to mid-July.
Teams need to know their opponents and the cities they will play in. Will they have time for friendly matches and a tough building-up process for the final stage of the tournament? There are doubts.
In the same meeting, the CAF Executive Committee also decided on the case of Sierra Leone in the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Sierra Leone were disqualified from the qualifiers and all their matches annulled. This will result in only three teams in Group F. Kenya leads the group with seven points followed by Ghana with six points and Ethiopia third and last with only one point.

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