Cairo - Libya has withdrawn as host of the 2017 African Cup over security
fears, the Confederation of African Football said on Saturday, throwing organisers
into a frantic rush to find a new venue.
CAF was informed of the decision on Friday when Libyan government and
football federation officials met with CAF President Issa Hayatou in Cairo.
The African football body has now given countries until the end of September
- barely a month - to submit applications to stage the continent's top
tournament in Libya's place.
Libya was meant to host the African Cup in 2013 but asked South Africa to
step in for it then because of security concerns, giving the north African
country another four years to prepare. But Libya has continued to be wracked by
violence since leader Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. It has seen some
of its worst fighting in recent months, with militias battling in the capital,
Tripoli, and the eastern city of Benghazi.
The Libyan delegation that travelled to CAF headquarters in Egypt to inform
Hayatou of the decision to withdraw included the country's minister of sport
and the president of the football federation. CAF gave the reason for the
withdrawal as "the unstable security situation in the country."
Five countries had already been shortlisted as possible hosts for the 2019
and 2021 African Cups: Algeria, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Zambia.
However, it's unclear if any of them would be ready to stage the 16-team event
in just over two years. South Africa stood in at short notice for Libya last
year using much of the infrastructure it had in place from hosting the 2010
World Cup, but it's unlikely that it will want to stand in again.
CAF will decide on the new host country next year.
"Considering the limited time left for the organisation of the 2017
edition, the CAF Executive Committee will select a host country whose dossier
guarantees that accommodation, transportation and hotels facilities, as well as
training sites and stadiums already exist," CAF said in its statement.
The 2015 African Cup will be held in Morocco in January and February.