SA to host the 2017 AFCON
Kirsten Nematandani (Gallo)
Johannesburg - South Africa discovered on Saturday that delivering a first-class Soccer World Cup is no guarantee of first preference when hosting the African Nations Cup.
It was a win-win situation to a large extent in the Democratic Republic of Congo city of Lubumbashi with the hosting of the 2015 and 2017 tournaments up for grabs and Morocco and South Africa the only candidates.
Morocco got the nod for 2015 after the executive committee of African governing body CAF met in the Congloese copper mining hub under the chairmanship of Cameroonian Issa Hayatou.
South Africa, who outvoted Morocco 14-10 to get the 2010 World Cup, desperately wanted to be the 2015 hosts as football officials sought to build on the momentum of staging the greatest football show.
"We wanted to stage the 2015 tournament in order to sustain some of the momentum from hosting the World Cup last year," South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani told reporters.
The Moroccan Football Federation also struck a sooner-rather-than-later line, saying in a statement that being 2015 hosts would "lift football to a new plateau and encourage professionalism".
It will be a second hosting of the biennial tournament for both countries with Morocco finishing fourth behind Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria in 1988 and South Africa defeating Tunisia in the 1996 final.
Morocco are busy adding to the top-class stadiums in capital Rabat and commercial centre Casablanca with Fes, Marrakech and Tangiers among cities likely to stage African fixtures.
South Africa have to avoid the one major embarrassment of 1996 when tiny crowds dotted large venues at virtually all games not involving the national side.
Nematandani accepts that not all 10 World Cup grounds can be involved for a tournament that traditionally uses four and suggested to the South African media that a bidding process would be used.
Oil-rich Central African countries Equatorial Guinea and Gabon stage the 2012 Nations Cup - the first tournament to officially be co-hosted - with Libya next one year later.
An even-year tournament since 1968, the change to uneven years will end the four-yearly situation of African teams having to play in the Nations Cup and World Cup within six months.
However, the news that South Africa will host yet another major tournament was met with disappointment across the continent, with many Africans feeling other countries deserved an opportunity.