CAF strikes Cup of Nations hosting pact

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has received the green light for its reshuffling of hosting rights to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) following an agreement struck with Alassane Ouattara, president of the Ivory Coast.

Ouattara met with his CAF counterpart, Ahmad Ahmad, at the presidential palace in Abidjan with the result of the talks meaning that Ivory Coast will host the 2023 AFCON and not the 2021 edition as originally planned.

The announcement seemingly ends the threat of a legal challenge by the Ivory Coast Football Federation, which was angered when Ahmad announced Cameroon as the new 2021 host without the Ivorians being consulted.

CAF has been attempting to deal with a hosting crisis resulting from the logistical strain placed on host nations from its decision to expand its showpiece national team tournament from 16 to 24 teams for this year’s edition.

Earlier this month, CAF appointed Egypt as the new host of the 2019 AFCON. Cameroon had been due to host the tournament, but was stripped of its hosting rights in December amid delays in stadium construction. CAF said that Cameroon had failed to meet a number of compliance conditions, with the organisation having received detailed updates from a number of inspection visits over nearly 18 months.

The Cup of Nations’ expansion and the requirement for Cameroon to use six stadia instead of the originally-planned four had placed extra strain on its infrastructure and resources. CAF had earlier further reshuffled its plans for the Cup of Nations by announcing that Guinea would stage the 2025 edition of the tournament, instead of the 2023 competition as was originally intended.

Commenting on the Ivory Coast agreement, Ahmad said: “I thank the President for taking into account this aspect of solidarity so that we support this shift for the organisation of AFCON 2021 in Cameroon, which is now at 80 per cent of the work and Côte d’Ivoire in 2023, and Guinea in 2025. To avoid misinterpretation, only Guinea can decide whether they prefer co-hosting or not. But CAF is in favour of a co-hosting of the AFCON.”

While political interference in the running of football has been clamped down on strongly by world football’s governing body Fifa in the past, Ahmad said strong ties with governments were crucial in the running of the game in Africa.

He said: “I have always said from the beginning of my mandate that I will never be able to manage African football without the contribution of governments especially our heads of state. In many African countries that I have visited, we note that there is always the involvement of the government.

“That’s right, there is what we call the autonomy of the member associations as enshrined in the Fifa Statutes, but autonomy does not mean independence. There is a management of autonomy. However, we are in a country where nothing can be done without the authorities.”

Ahmad also stated that CAF is close to finalising a new framework agreement designed to aid the future hosting of the expanded Cup of Nations. He added: “In the next six months, we have to meet with our technicians to draw up the framework agreement and also review the schedule of preparations for the competition in each country.”