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AFCON 2019: The Consequence of CAF Stripping Cameroon of the Hosting Rights

After months of speculation and anxiety, Cameroon has finally been stripped of the rights to host the Africa Cup of Nations scheduled to start from June next year.

After months of speculation and anxiety, Cameroon has finally been stripped of the rights to host the Africa Cup of Nations scheduled to start from June next year.

This decision was made public late Friday after an executive committee meeting held in Accra, Ghana where the hosting rights for the 24-nation tournament was the third item of discussion in the agenda.

Two reports that were key to the final decision regarding the Central African nation were tabled, namely: the report of inspection visits of the security committee from October 27 to November 1 and the report of the inspection visit from November 11-15.

The verdict was issued in the presence of the president of the normalization committee of the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot), Dieudonne Happi and governmental and sports officials who had traveled to Ghana ahead of the make-or-break meeting.

Cameroon pledged to host the tournament way back in 2014, after a vote by an executive committee in a meeting that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Their bid was centered on four venues in Bafoussam, Douala, Garoua, and Yaounde.

Since then, the central African country’s pace in achieving requirements for a successful tournament was slow, which made CAF, on several occasions, to threaten the country with the possible withdrawal of hosting rights.

Finally, the shambolic preparations by Cameroon were confirmed in Accra by the African football chiefs, who cited the central African nation’s lack of adequate stadium infrastructure and its pressing insecurity issues as a factor in its decision.

Peaceful protests in Cameroon’s Anglophone-speaking regions over a lack of representation in the French-led national government have escalated over the past two years. Cameroon also continues to grapple with the enduring threat of Boko Haram attacks as the terrorist sect remains operative in the country’s far north.

In most international football events such as the world cup, the sports’ world governing body (FIFA) usually enters into a special agreement (usually called the Hosting Agreement) with the hosting country. This agreement regulates the working relations between the hosting association and FIFA.

But in the case of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, there was no mention of a hosting agreement between CAF and the host nation, Cameroon. Many had expected an indication of consequences of failure to deliver, which would have included lengthy bans as well as hefty sanctions to the nation.

Instead, CAF made it clear that Cameroon remains a serious candidate to organize a future edition of AFCON.

However, everyone knows that the host nation automatically qualifies for the tournament, which now clearly indicates that Indomitable Lions’ elimination has effectively landed.

Cameroon has placed itself in a bad situation, which will have to take a major public relations push to repair this damage, for them to win rights for hosting the tournament in the near future.

This failure to get ready in time also undermines football leagues in the host nation, as a good number of home-based players would have been named in the provisional squads to prepare for the tournament.

Given the political turmoil in the Anglophone region, Cameroon needed an image makeover that a successful international sports event would have brought. The loss of hosting rights hurts Cameroon’s national economy, the football development agenda, the country’s hospitality industry and even national morale at a time when confidence is badly needed.

Cameroon has over the years built itself a strong brand as a footballing nation, having won the AFCON trophies on several occasions, and they are currently the defending champions.

Successful hosts gain useful advantages: increased media visibility, more tourists and improved transportation networks. Public enthusiasm for the sport can also get a boost. And if the host team succeeds, there can be a feeling of enhanced national excitement, patriotism and identity.

Hosting the expanded 24-team tournament was a perfect opportunity to elevate the brand of the national football team, the Indomitable Lions. It would also have laid the foundation for qualifying for the now expanded World Cup, after missing Russia 2018.

Indeed, this cancellation is a huge disappointment to the sporting fraternity across the Central African region and the whole world that has always looked at Cameroon as Africa’s trailblazing superpower in football.

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