The Hosting Game

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By Webmaster December 17, 2018 20:05

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The Hosting Game

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (December 16th 2018)

The conspiracy theorists were half right. Ever since Ahmad Ahmad ousted Issa Hayatou last year and the new CAF President organised a symposium in Morocco to plan the direction African football would take. The conspiracy mill went into overdrive. Morocco had gone from pariah under Hayatou for refusing to host AFCON as planned in 2015 over fears about the Ebola Virus to ‘most favoured nation’ under Ahmad Ahmad, hosting two symposiums and also stepping in to host the African Nations Championship CHAN, when Kenya were stripped of hosting rights.

Kenya could not provide the facilities necessary, leaving CAF with little choice. Cameroon, Hayatou’s country, was due to host – overdue in fact. The second most successful nation in African football history – only Egypt has won more than Cameroon’s five titles – had only hosted AFCON once and that was in 1972. They are also the defending champions, but doubts were raised a long time ago. Did they have the necessary infrastructures? Could they provide it in time?

Cameroon bid and won the right to host, pledging to organise four stadiums for 16 teams. Then the posts were moved. Struggling to meet original commitment, they had to provide 50% more than was previously agreed as CAF voted to move AFCON to June and July and expand to 24 teams.

Turmoil in FECAFOOT, Cameroon’s governing body led to a Normalisation Committee being imposed – it still runs Cameroonian football. Given little choice – agree or lose the right to host, Cameroon pledged to meet the new requirements. They could not achieve that despite the support and pledges of veteran President Paul Biya.

Less than a fortnight ago CAF stripped Cameroon of the right to host the 32nd and historic AFCON – it will be the first in the Northern hemisphere’s summer and the first with 24 teams. Irate at conspiracy theories spreading Fouzi Lekjaa and Dieudonné Happi held a joint press-briefing to denounce the ‘conspiracy’ and Lekjaa pledged Morocco’s support to Cameroon. All they had to do was ask for help, but the request never came.

Moroccan great Zaki Badou was keen to get this AFCON moved to Morocco. He felt that Morocco had a better chance to win if it hosted – strangely Morocco has only hosted once as well, and like Cameroon it hosted and lost.

Badou thinks that the current squad was ready to win, but reaching the end of playing shelf-life. Hosting he believed offered the best chance of a second title. Cameroon could have a later AFCON he suggested, but Morocco won’t host 2019’s AFCON.

To the surprise of many and bewilderment of the conspiracy theorists Morocco chose not to bid. That led to a reversal of intent by Egypt. Initially, the Pharaohs ruled themselves out, only to have a rethink after Morocco’s decision. The only other contenders hosted five years ago. An Extraordinary Meeting of CAF will take place a day after CAF’s awards in Dakar. It will decide whether South Africa or Egypt will host the historic AFCON.

Webmaster
By Webmaster December 17, 2018 20:05