Afcon 2013 is good news
Sunday Times Editorial: The decision on Wednesday by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to award the 2013 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) to South Africa, couldn't have come at a better time.
Bafana Bafana's attempt to qualify for next year's Afcon is hanging by a thread (they are in second place in their qualifying group and only the group winners qualify automatically for the 2012 edition) and one of the hidden benefits of hosting in 2013 is that the hosts gain automatic entry into the tournament. This means Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane has tournament football, of the highest standard the continent can offer, available to him in 2013. One can't be sure who will qualify for 2013 but one can be sure that most of the traditional African footballing powerhouses - the Ivory Coast, Egypt, Cameroon and Senegal - will be there or thereabouts.
Exposing his team to the rigours of tournament football a year before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is akin to a birthday present for Mosimane, the national team and Safa, the national association.
Comparisons are already being made between South Africa's hosting of the competition in two years' time and what last happened when we were hosts - in 1996. That time round, and buoyed by a near-hysterical nation, Bafana Bafana became African champions, beating Algeria 2-0 in the final. The subtext in all of this is that home ground advantage tends to do wonders for the national team. If we did it in 1996, could we not do it again in 2013?
There are also the practical benefits of hosting Afcon in 2013. As Safa's Danny Jordaan points out elsewhere in this paper, the advantages of being 2013 hosts mean the World Cup stadiums will still be in fine fettle and no more money will need to be spent on extensions or upgrades. Indeed, hosting in 2013 will allow the municipalities of some of the marginal stadiums to enter the bidding process to be one of four stadiums used in the competition. This will give an opportunity to comparatively under-used stadiums in places like Polokwane, Port Elizabeth and Nelspruit to bid for hosting rights. From a national perspective, though, it doesn't matter which cities are hosts. The tournament is coming to South Africa in 2013 and that's good news for our football, our national side and for the economy, a tangible benefit of hosting a successful World Cup last year.