Cape Town - Rumblings of discontent are emerging in African soccer's
hazy administrative portals before CAF announce the emergency replacement venue for this year's Africa Cup of Nations.
However, the initial dissatisfaction is not from Cameroon
who have been deprived of the tournament because of inadequate facilities or
Egypt and South Africa who are vying as the replacement, but from the Ivory
Coast and Guinea whose hosting of future AFCONs have been affected by this
When CAF took the late decision to revoke Cameroon's
hosting of the 2019 Nations Cup because
of inadequate stadiums and related facilities for the competition, the country
was assured it would be granted the right to host the 2021 version instead of
the Ivory Coast, resulting in the Ivory Coast being shunted to staging the 2023
event and the designated 2023 holders, Guinea, switched to holding the
tournament in 2025.
Well and good for CAF to summarily make the radical
changes at the drop of a hat. But, for understandable reasons, the Ivory Coast
and Guinea are anything but over the
moon by the hosting merry-go-round, with the Ivory Coast Football Federation
having already appealed to the Court for
Arbitration in Sport to declare the hosting changes as it affected them as
invalid and Guinea soccer president Mamadou Antonio Souare complaining that
"they have not as much as informed us officially of the changes and left
us to gather all the news second-hand."
Meanwhile, the immediate conundrum among African soccer
nations is whether Egypt or South Africa will be designated with the tricky
task of organising an AFCON event that has been increased from 16 to 24
teams at little more than five months' notice - with initial hosting replacement
favourites Morocco withdrawing from the race because of the mushrooming problems it would generate for
the country at such short notice.
SAFA president Danny Jordaan, a demon for the limelight,
was understandably imbued by the prospect of South Africa organising the country's third AFCON - the
previous two as replacement hosts as well - and immediately revealed that CAF had asked the country to hold this
year's tournament, something which CAF president Ahmad Ahmad later disputed.
Ahmad asserted that all CAF member nations who believed
they were suitably willing and able to replace Cameroon in staging the Nations
Cup in June and July had been requested to forward their applications to the
continent's ruling soccer body, with Egypt and South Africa the only two countries to come forward.
Jordaan pointed out that after successfully staging the
2010 World Cup and with almost all the stadiums for the global extravaganza
still available, South Africa boasted the best-equipped playing facilities in
But organising an event of the dimension of the Nations
Cup extends well beyond playing facilities alone and SAFA's current financial
situation is clearly shaky following the revelation that the organisation
suffered a R18 million loss during the past financial year - meaning that the South African government
would have to bear the brunt of tournament costs that have been estimated
variously in the region of R150 million
A viewpoint exists that the country is currently faced
with a number of pressing problems that suggests the money would be better utilised in correcting these issues, with government
comment on funding the Nations Cup having been more or less muted up to this
"But we are going ahead and waiting expectantly for
the outcome," said SAFA Public
Relations head, Dominic Chimhavi.
"We believe that is what our
And hosting the Nations Cup could be a boost for South
Africa in one significant respect, with Bafana Bafana then automatically
qualifying for the tournament.
At this juncture
the national team needs to avoid defeat in a final qualifying game against
Libya in March to avoid being replaced
by their opponents among the final 24 qualifiers.
Egypt will make it to the finals either way and
apparently only put their hosting application forward in order to keep the event in North Africa
after Morocco's stepping down.
Reports have suggested that much of Morocco's support
will now fall behind Egypt, who are multi-Nations Cup winners.
But Chimhavi says SAFA remain optimistic at the prospect of hosting world class players of the calibre of Mohamed Salah (Egypt
and Liverpool), Sadio Mane (Senegal and Liverpool) and Alex Iwobi (Nigeria and
Arsenal) in what would be a timely boost for soccer in the country.