Feature: East Africa fail in bid to stage AFCON

Source: Xinhua| 2019-01-21 22:08:58|Editor: mym
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By John Kwoba

NAIROBI, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) says the region has failed to use its economic power to develop football or host the continent's biggest football showpiece, the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

West and North Africa have dominated the tournament in recent years, and CECAFA secretary-general Nicholas Musonye wants the east to bid to stage the tournament in a bid to boost the development of the sport in the region.

"Where are East Africa's candidates? We have had this tournament many times in West or North Africa. Southern Africa has also had its share with South Africa. But East Africa has been left out, not because they present weak bids, but no country in the region has shown interest to stage the competition," Musonye said in Nairobi.

Early this month, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) awarded Egypt the rights to stage the 2019 tournament in June, replacing Cameroon, which had failed to meet organization demands, forcing the continental body to strip it of the rights to stage Africa's top international football tournament.

It was the fourth successive time that the Africa Cup of Nations has had to change host country at short notice, and Cameroon becomes the seventh country to be stripped of the organizational honor.

In 1996, all eyes were on Kenya's return to the Africa Cup of Nations as hosts. But they lost the hosting rights because the country was not ready.

"Kenya are always jokers in regard to sports. We don't give them the right support. We have no structures to help budding players get through to the international scene. What we have is individual brilliance and a few corporates helping through their CSR and welfare," said Musonye.

"This needs to change. Football and other sports should be seen as a crucial industry through which youth can have a lifeline."

As in 1996, the last time a country from East Africa bid for the Africa Cup of Nations, Kenya's playing facilities were found to be below standard.

This failure hurt the country and its footballing activities, and a similar scenario occurred in January 2018, when Morocco was nominated to replace Kenya in hosting the 2018 Africa Nations Championships, a tournament only for local-based players plying their trade in their country of birth.

"Allowing this to happen twice is a disaster," said Nick Mwendwa, chairman of Football Kenya Federation (FKF).

Prior to 1996, Kenya's Harambee Stars had qualified for the AFCON three times in a row, in 1988, 1990 and 1992.

After this, it failed to qualify until 2004 in Tunisia. Since then, it has been agonizing 14 years, during which the country has learned the value of sport and seen President Uhuru Kenyatta's regime help revamp the industry.

As the country celebrates the return of the Harambee Stars to the AFCON, their journey now has a set destiny, as they plan to play warmup matches in Europe, and only fly into Egypt in June for the tournament.

CAF has frequently withdrawn the tournament from a country after pumping in millions of dollars in preparation.

In 2017, Libya lost the hosting rights to Gabon. Libya was hit with civil unrest after the overthrow and assassination of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and could not complete the construction of infrastructure in time.

Two years previously, the 2015 Cup of Nations ended up in Equatorial Guinea, which became the first country to host two AFCON tournaments within the space of three years, having co-hosted with neighbors Gabon back in 2012.

Initial host Morocco's decision to request a postponement of the event was due to a fear of the Ebola epidemic arriving on their shores. Cote d'Ivoire won that tournament, beating Ghana 9-8 on penalties after a goalless draw in the final.

Again in 2013, Libya once again lost out due to its civil war. They swapped with South Africa with hopes of hosting the 2017 tournament should normalcy resume in the country. It was during this period that the staging of the event was changed from even to odd years.

In 2000, Zimbabwe's spirited efforts to convince CAF to allow them to stage the tournament were thwarted. Zimbabwe lost the finals because of the slow pace of construction of new stadiums, as well as the lack of financial guarantees from the government.

Ghana and Nigeria were selected ahead of Morocco to stage the event. Ghana staged the opening show while Nigeria staged the final match and the closing ceremony. Cameroon won the championship, edging out Nigeria in the final.