Egypt to host 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
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Egypt will host the new expanded 24-team Africa Cup of Nations, the Confederation of African Football confirmed after a meeting of their executive commitee in Dakar on Tuesday.
Egypt will stage the June 15 to July 13 tournament after original host nation Cameroon was stripped of staging duties in late 2018 because of the worryingly slow pace of preparations, said the Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Ahmad Ahmad at a press briefing in the Senegalese capital.
After several inspection visits over the past two years, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) officially announced that Cameroon would not be ready in time.
The North African nation will host the competition for the fourth time and it will be the first time 24 teams will take part. It will also give Egyptian star and Liverpool FC forward Mohamed Salah a chance to shine on his home stage.
In an interview with FRANCE 24's Kethevane Gorjestani, CAF President Ahmad said that main reason for Egypt winning the bid was the commitment of the Egyptian government.
“In Africa […] passport, visas, even transport, IT, [and] security services – everything - depends on the government.”
Egypt has extensive football facilities, although in recent years attendances at local matches have been restricted because of security concerns following the Arab Spring revolution and Tahrir Square demonstrations in 2011.
The final round of qualifiers for the tournament will be held in March, with 14 nations, including Egypt, having already sealed their place at the finals.
Last minute suspense
Reporting directly from Senegal, FRANCE 24’s Gorjestani said that “’finally’ is probably the word on everyone’s mind because we’re [now only] about five months away from the start of this competition and we finally have a decision.”
Gorjestani said that the atmosphere had been filled with suspense until the very last minutes “because earlier this morning we were told that there would be no announcement about the 2019 host until tomorrow. But in the end, CAF President Ahmad Ahmad decided to make this statement to the press, saying the media needed an answer, [and that] they needed to communicate an answer to the world.”
Gorjestani said that the choice of Egypt came as a surprise to many. “South Africa was seen as the more safe and logical choice because they hosted the World Cup back in 2010 and they are ready to organise such a competition. But Egypt – probably because of its love for football – overpowered South Africa. Egypt’s also ready because they have the stadiums, they have the infrastructure, and they have the hotels.”
But, FRANCE 24’s Gorjestani said, security remains a major concern for Egypt.
“There’s of course the threat of terrorism, but there’s also the question of security in stadiums. Remember the stadium violence back in 2012 in Port Said where about 70 people died in football violence?,” she said. “After that, and until now, a lot of the stadiums in the national league have been closed off to fans and only this year did they start to slowly reintroduce several thousand fans in these big stadiums.
“That will be a key challenge for Egypt.”
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)