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Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 10 - 2011

After everything was ready, the Egyptian Football Association suddenly decided it cannot host the 2012 Olympics football qualifying tournament, Inas Mazhar reports
The tournament was scheduled to take place from 26 November to 10 December in Cairo. According to the EFA media director Azmi Megahed, the EFA decided to officially apologise to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and pull out from hosting the tournament because the timing will coincide with the Egyptian parliamentary elections also next month. The fear is that following the January revolution, the country is still lacking in stability.
Megahed said that Algeria would probably replace Egypt as the host nation.
Egypt will now be playing away and will be deprived of the home field advantage. Egypt's last Olympic football appearance was in Barcelona 1992.
Megahed added that the Olympic U-23 team will continue its preparations in Cairo and is planning two friendly matches to warm up for the competition.
The EFA secretary-general confirmed to Al-Ahram Weekly the Egyptian withdrawal from the event. He added that the Egypt versus Brazil friendly will take place as scheduled in Qatar.
The draw for the first ever African U-23 championship, which will also serve as a qualifier for London 2012, was conducted at CAF headquarters in Cairo in September. Egypt, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon and South Africa were drawn in Group A while Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria and Senegal make up Group B.
Group A matches were to be held at the Military Stadium while Group B games were to take place at the Arab Contractors Stadium. The final and third and fourth place matches were to take place on 10 December at Cairo International Stadium.
The top three teams will qualify for the London 2012 Olympics while the fourth placed side will engage a team from Asia in a play- off.
CAF had decided then to turn the final phase of the Olympic qualifiers into an African U-23 championship. This means that the tournament will be held every four years and will fall in the year before the Olympics.
This past weekend saw the end of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifications come to an end with all 16 teams identified:
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea (co-hosts), Niger, Angola, Botswana, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Senegal, Tunisia, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Libya and Sudan.
Libya and Sudan secured the two places at the 2012 ACN reserved for the best runners- up from qualifying groups containing three or four teams.
Though Egypt registered its only victory in the qualifications by beating Niger 3-0 in their last African qualifier, the Egyptians, the defending champions, will not be making an appearance at the ACN. South Africa also failed in showing up at the 2012 finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
It was an impressive 3-0 victory by the young Pharaohs who played the last two games in the qualifications replacing the seniors when it became apparent Egypt would miss the boat to Africa. Interestingly, the seniors lost to lowly Niger 1-0 in their away match but their youngsters avenged in Cairo.


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