Tuesday D-Day for SA possibly hosting the 2019 African Nations Cup
The meeting of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee to decide the host of the 2019 African Nations Cup finals has been brought forward to Tuesday.
CAF gave no explanation for the switch‚ moving the meeting forward by 24 hours to 10h30 South African time in Dakar‚ Senegal.
The decision on whether Egypt or South Africa will take over the staging of the event from Cameroon will be announced at a press conference following the meeting.
It will no doubt be a robust debate‚ with both potential hosts having their pros and cons.
Each has the infrastructure to stage the expanded 24-team event in terms of stadia‚ transport links and hotels‚ but the security situation in the North African country remains of deep concern.
Spectators at matches in the Egyptian Premier League are still limited to only 5‚000 this season and even then they do not pass without incident.
This follows the horrific Port Said tragedy in which 74 people lost their lives in politically motivated violence as fans of Al-Masry attacked their Al Ahly counterparts in 2012.
Tourism in the country is starting to rebound after the upheaval of the Arab Spring‚ but just last month three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide were killed when a roadside bomb hit their bus near the pyramids in Giza.
It follows a number of serious incidents in the last few years and Egypt’s interior ministry admitted in the wake of the bombing that “terrorist elements” were planning attacks on state institutions and the tourism industry in the country.
It could make a Nations Cup in Egypt a soft target‚ though to counter that security will likely be incredibly tight for the event.
It is the major worry around the tournament‚ which is otherwise backed by government and should provide the revenues CAF seek from their flagship competition.
South Africa provides a ‘plug-and-play’ solution for CAF with its excellent 2010 FIFA World Cup infrastructure‚ but there have been suggestions that government officials do not have the same appetite to host as their Egyptian counterparts.
SAFA have not yet obtained government guarantees for the costs of hosting the event as CAF were vague on requirements following the hastily made decision to strip Cameroon of the rights.
It has been suggested though that prominent local figures such as Mamelodi Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe‚ who has interests across the continent‚ could step in to assist financially.
Minister of Sport Tokozile Xasa has given her lukewarm backing to South Africa staging the event‚ saying that in principle government was keen‚ but that they needed to run the numbers before giving their full support‚ which is a sensible stance.
SAFA suggest that hosting could boost investment in the country and provide stronger links with fellow African nations‚ though tourism around the event is often at a low level given the expense.
South Africa have hosted the finals twice before – on both occasions taking over from other nations at relatively short notice.
They lifted the trophy on home soil in 1996 when Kenya were stripped of hosting rights and exited in the quarterfinals in 2013 when Libya were withdrawn as hosts given the perilous security situation in the country.
Egypt have hosted on four previous occasions‚ the last in 2006 when they won the title.