Cameroon will now host the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after being stripped of the rights to host next year’s edition by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) last Friday, Caf President Ahmad Ahmad has confirmed.
According to Ahmad, Cameroon was stripped of the 2019 Afcon rights to avoid a repeat of 2010 where some players came under attack by Cabinda separatists in Angola besides delays in infrastructural preparations.
Gunmen attacked a bus transporting the Togolese national team to Angola for the 2010 tournament killing three people and wounding many others. The attackers fired at the vehicle when it crossed from the Republic of Congo into Angola’s oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Rebels who were fighting for the independence of the region later claimed responsibility for the attack.
In an interview on Pan African television channel, Afrique Media on Monday night, Ahmad said Caf paid dearly for the Cabinda incident and “can’t take that risk again” for Cameroon that is facing two major security threats; the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern regions and an armed separatist movement in the two English speaking regions.
He said all 20 members of the Caf executive committee who were present in Accra, Ghana last Friday unanimously agreed that it was not possible to stage the 2019 tournament in Cameroon and asked the Central African country to continue preparations to host the 2021 edition because the initial hosts Cote d’Ivoire will not be ready by then.
“We have seen that Cote d’Ivoire will not be ready to host Afcon in 2021. So the Executive committee has confirmed Cameroon as host of 2021 …We have taken the decision for the good of African football on the basis of rules and regulations of the game in force,” president Ahmad said promising Caf will be ready to defend it’s decision should Cameroon appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).
The Caf president denied reports that the withdrawal of the 2019 Afcon hosting rights from Cameroon was an attempt to settle scores with his predecessor Issa Hayatou, saying he has never criticized the management of the continental soccer body during Hayatou’s reign.
“Even when journalists tried repeatedly to urge me to comment on his [Issa Hayatou] reign, I always avoided it and told them it was their role not mine. It is not possible that withdrawing Afcon 2019 from Cameroon implies I’m settling scores with my predecessor, a Cameroonian,” Ahmad stated.
The Cameroon government has said works on infrastructure will continue at the same pace despite the “surprising decision” by the continental football body.
“This decision is unmerited considering the resolve of the Head of State and the people of Cameroon to make all-out effort to host a remarkable celebration of African football in 2019,” Cameroon Communication Minister and government spokesperson, Issa Tchiroma Bakary said.
“Cameroon has put in a creditable performance. It shall prove it to the entire world by continuing with the same determination and completing the construction of these modern infrastructures belonging to the Cameroonian people on time, as pledged by the Head of State,” he promised.
South Africa and Morocco have emerged as favourites to replace Cameroon as 2019 Afcon hosts.