After Guinea was stripped of its rights to host the AFCON in 2025, the African Football Confederation (CAF) had to restart procedures to select a host. As many as seven countries declared official interest in hosting the event. On December 16, the nations submitted their final bid.
The World Cup in Qatar is over
The Atlas Lions caused a sensation by eliminating favoured Spain from the competition and remained in the tournament. After that they faced Portugal in the quarter-finals. Morocco once again prevailed and advanced to the semis, where they lost to France. Although they failed to bring home a medal from the tournament, after a loss in the third place play-off against Croatia, Morocco finally earned a record 4th place, which was also the best result from all African or Arab nations. In the meantime, the race to host the Africa Cup of Nations in 2025 is gaining momentum.
Let us recall that the African Football Confederation (CAF) issued a statement on October 1 saying that Guinea’s infrastructure and facilities were “not ready” to host the competition. Such a decision, although announced three months ago, was already made in June. The extension of the tournament to 24 teams in 2019 meant that Guinea’s poor infrastructure was problematic from the start and nobody was surprised by the confederation’s decision.
CAF President, Patrice Motsepe, visited the country at the time to discuss the possibility of Guinea bidding to host other tournaments with neighbouring states. He declared to the federation there his readiness to advise and cooperate on building infrastructure and football facilities in the country. This will enable Guinea to bid to host the African Nations Championship (CHAN), which will take place after a tournament of its kind in 2023, hosted by Algeria. CHAN is a championship played every second year in which participating national teams must be created from players performing in their national league competitions.
CAF has provided a timetable for the selection of a new host for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations. November 11, 2022, was the deadline for candidates to submit their declarations of interest. By November 16 2022, the confederation had to send out the necessary documents related to the bid to host the cup to the countries that had declared an interest. December 16, 2022, was the deadline for the federations to submit its final proposal, including all bidding and host-related documents (organising agreement, host city agreement, government guarantees).
Follow-up visits are due to take place in January, and on February 10 the CAF Executive Committee will finally select the tournament holder.
Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Nigeria with Benin, South Africa and Zambia have declared their willingness to host Africa’s best footballers. The first two countries are seen as favourites. The Moroccan bid seems to have a good chance of success, as the country has a well-developed sporting infrastructure and considerable ambition, however, it applied for the 2026 World Cup in the past and wants to host the tournament in 2030. Their proposal includes the use of six venues including Casablanca’s Stade Mohammed V, Rabat’s Stade Moulay Abdallah, Stade de Marrakech, Agadir’s Stade Adrar, Grand Stade de Tanger, and Complexe Sportif de Fès.
The last Nations Cup was held in Cameroon in January and February 2022. The tournament was originally scheduled to take place a year earlier, but was postponed due to the pandemic. Earlier in 2022, CAF announced that the 2023 Nations Cup in Côte d’Ivoire would be postponed to January and February 2024 due to the country’s rainy season occurring during the summer.
The way forward
The 2015 event was scheduled to be held in Morocco, but they withdraw as hosts because of fears it would lead to a further spread of the Ebola virus. The host country became Equatorial Guinea. The scheduled 2021 tournament was also affected by disease, with the coronavirus pandemic causing it to be postponed until 2022.
The timing and scheduling of the AFCON, especially in the last decade has been very problematic. It all began about 10 years ago when it was announced that after the 2012 AFCON, for the first time in over 3 decades, the next tournament would be played in an odd number year. The major reason for this change was to put an end to the incidence of the AFCON and the FIFA World Cup holding in the same calendar year. That seemed like a very sensible reason at that time and the 2013 AFCON, hosted by South Africa and won by Nigeria, became the first to be held in an odd number year since 1965.
The next three AFCON editions (2015, 2017 and 2019) were also held in odd number years as the new trend continued without hitch.
However, after the 2017 edition hosted by Gabon, CAF decided to make a change that had never been made in the history of the competition and that was when the problems truly began.
Since the inception of the competition in 1957, the AFCON had never held in the summer.
The competition was held in November/December, March/April and from 2000, January/February but never in June/July.
A major reason for this is due to heat in Africa. The lower temperature during the winter period would presumably be more friendly on the players than the summer heat. Another reason could be in order to avoid the heavy rainfall in most parts of Africa during the rainy season.
Cameroon were scheduled to host the first ever AFCON to hold in the summer in 2019 but were stripped of hosting rights due to inability to prepare in time for the competition and security concerns.
The fact of the matter is that, after the West African nation won the rights in 2014 to host the 2019 edition, CAF made a decision to expand the competition from 16 to 24 teams three years later.
The decision to expand the competition was a good one but the timing was wrong. In defence of Cameroon, they made a bid to host the 2019 AFCON with 16 nations in mind and not 24 and were already preparing for it until the new announcement was made in 2017.
Due to the changes made in 2019, Cameroon were given the right to host the 2021 edition in place of Ivory Coast, who were originally supposed to host it, with the latter getting 2023 instead.
After successfully holding an AFCON in the summer in 2019, CAF decided to bring back the date for the 2021 edition to January in order to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season.
However, the AFCON was unable to hold in January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was moved to January 2022.
At the moment, Ivory Coast are scheduled to host the next edition in January 2024. This would mean two consecutive editions of the competition being held in even number years despite the decision to hold it in odd number years.
There are many questions for CAF to answer and many decisions to make ahead of the next edition. However, the immediate concern of the African football governing body is to provide Morocco with a golden opportunity to restore the distorted calendar.
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