by Ahmed Shafiq, Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Egypt is five months away from hosting Africa's largest continental football tournament, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), which is expected to revive the football sector in the country and strongly push the ailing tourism sector.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on Tuesday that Egypt will host the 2019 AFCON for the fifth time in its history.
The tournament was initially scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon. However, Cameroon was stripped of the right to host the tournament for serious delay in preparations.
Egypt has won the right to host the tournament over its sole rival South Africa, as it obtained 16 out of 18 votes in favor.
"Hosting the AFCON is very good for Egyptian sports," said Cairo-based sports critic Radwan Zayat. "Egypt is ready with all its facilities, infrastructure and great experience to host the tournament as we have in Egypt the best stadiums."
Zayat, also a member of the Egyptian parliament, said Egypt is able to organize a distinguished tournament this year.
He noted that the tournament will have a very positive impact on the Egyptian football, in addition to the great financial return that Egypt will get from hosting it.
"I think this tournament will be a turning point in the history of the Egyptian football ... The return of spectators after a long ban is one of the most important gains. There is an opportunity for Egypt to win the championship as we will play at home as it happened in 2006," he added.
The 2019 AFCON is scheduled to take place from June 15 to July 13.
Egypt hosted four African Cup of Nations' tournaments in 1957, 1974, 1986 and 2006 respectively and has won the title for seven times.
This year's edition has seen major innovations, with the tournament expanded to 24 teams from 16, and moved to a summer schedule instead of its former calendar date of January-February.
Before Egypt was elected as the host country, there had been worries that votes will not be in favor of Egypt as the country has witnessed fragile security conditions over the past year.
Hosting the tournament is historic, as it shows the global recognition of Egypt's capability to secure the safety of players, delegations and fans, security expert Colonel Hatem Saber told Xinhua.
"I believe organizing the tournament is a new security challenge, but Egypt has been accustomed to such challenges. I am confident that Egypt will succeed in holding the championship in the best possible way, especially since there will be an unprecedented security plan, with the help of the Egyptian people," he pointed out.
Moreover, economic expert Abu Bakr al-Deeb believed hosting the AFCON will revive the Egyptian economy by boosting tourism, investment.
"It will also help raise the value of Egyptian pound against foreign currencies. I expect Egypt to gain a total of nearly 14 billion U.S. dollars out of hosting the tournament," he said.
Despite the high costs of organizing such a big event, he said, the economic return and investments are much greater, as about 1 million people are expected to visit Egypt during the tournament.
"Egypt will also gain billions of U.S. dollars out of the rights of live broadcasts, advertisement and sponsors," he added.
For his part, tourism expert Walid Al-Batouti said organizing the AFCON will have a positive impact on the Egyptian tourism in general, and will be a great opportunity to boost the number of African tourists to the country.
He explained that the event will highlight Egypt and its heritage, civilization and tourist attractions in various international media, and tell the world that Egypt is stable.
"Certainly the tournament will increase the occupancy rate in hotels and tourist places in the provinces that will host the games ... Tourism companies will prepare entertainment programs for the fans with special spectators, which will encourage the fans to visit our country," he said.