Is it time for East Africa?
Harare – Almost 40 years after they last hosted the Nations Cup, East Africa appears to have put itself in prime position to stage Africa’s biggest football showcase in 2017.
The bidding process for the right to host the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) in two years’ time has been opened after Libya, who were supposed to be the hosts, withdrew because of the deteriorating security concerns in the North African country.
All the countries intending to be considered for the race to host the 2017 Nations Cup have to submit their bids to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) by the end of this month.
The CAF executive is scheduled to name the hosts in April next year.
The hosting of the Nations Cup has been dominated by North and West Africa with the next tournament set to be held in Morocco next year while the Libyans were scheduled to stage the one that will be held in 2017.
Egypt have said it would be an honour for them to host the 2017 Nations Cup, exactly nine years after they hosted the tournament on home soil in 2006 and won the title after a 4-2 penalty shootout win over Cote d’Ivoire.
“It will be an honour for us to host the Afcon as we are keen to host this event but we still need to talk with many ministries in the government,” Egypt Football Association vice-president, Hassan Farid, said.
But questions about Egypt’s long-term stability remain and although the security situation in the North African countries has stabilised, in recent months, things could still explode and the arrival of the media bandwagon that comes with the Nations Cup and the international spotlight that is provided by the tournament could give the protesters the ammunition they need.
Zimbabwe have thrown their name into the hat, as possible hosts of the 2017 Nations Cup, either on their own or as part of a bloc of countries, in this region, who can co-host the tournament.
“Zimbabwe should start by hosting the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations” to prove the country’s potential of staging, in 20 years’ time, the biggest sports showpiece in the world,” the country’s tourism minister, Walter Mzembi told parliament.
“We are dreaming, Mr Speaker, of mega events in the future that will improve hotel accommodation, rooms, hospitality and basically everything in this country.
“One of them which I had already pronounced and Parliament must take us dead serious on it is the hosting of the World Cup in 2034 by Zimbabwe.
“It has already attracted international interest to the extent that just last week I dispatched my chief executive officer to Botswana and he came back with a model that we have agreed on as a region, not to just host the World Cup in 2034 but to look immediately at the hosting of Afcon 2017, after the withdrawal of Libya.”
Ghana, who were given the rights to host the Nations Cup in 2000, which they co-hosted with Nigeria, after CAF withdrew the rights from Zimbabwe, on the eleventh hour claiming that the country was not ready, are also interested in the 2017 Nations Cup finals.
‘”I am happy to announce to you that, the President, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama has given us the permission to bid for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations,” Ghanaian Minister of Youth and Sport Mahama Ayariga said on his Twitter account.
“We have his blessings and we are going to bid for the competition, because we have what it takes to win. We have the infrastructure in place, a good air travel system and a hospitable environment to host the rest of the continent.”
But Ghana hosted the Nations Cup just six years ago and that could work against them.
The good money, it appears, is on the 2017 Nations Cup being hosted by Ethiopia or an East African bloc that will see Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda or Rwanda jointly hosting the tournament.
“We already have two ready venues, the Addis Ababa and the Bahir Dar stadiums, and the construction of the other venues has also reached to a good level,” Ethiopia Football Federation president Junedin Basha told BBC Sport.
“Our government is ready and interested to do everything it can to bring the tournament back to Ethiopia.”
Given that the last Nations Cup hosted in East Africa was in Ethiopia in 1976, it’s likely that the CAF leadership will feel that this is the time for the tournament to return to that part of the continent.
However, politics always play a big part in determining who hosts the Nations Cup finals and the East African countries will be hoping that they have been forgiven for leading the rebellion against Lennart Johansson in his bid to become Fifa president in 1998.