SA, Morocco on standby if Kenya fails

African Independent - - SPORT - THOMAS KWENAITE

KENYA has as­sured com­pa­tri­ots that they will host the 2018 African Na­tions Cham­pi­onship (Chan), al­though it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous that the host­ing rights will be taken from the east Africans and handed to an­other host na­tion.

Kenyan cabi­net sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Sports, Cul­ture and the Arts, Dr Has­san Wario em­pha­sised the con­ti­nen­tal foot­ball show­piece would be staged as sched­uled from Jan­uary 11 to Fe­bru­ary 2.

But in­di­ca­tions are that the Con­fed­er­a­tion of African Foot­ball (Caf ) have taken pre­cau­tions due to the slow pace of prepa­ra­tions and THURS­DAY At Kam­pala: Uganda v Egypt (3pm) At Conakry: Guinea v Libya (7pm) FRI­DAY At Ku­masi, Ghana: Ghana v Congo Braz­zav­ille (5.30pm) At Uyo, Nige­ria: Nige­ria v Cameroon (6pm) At Praia: Cape Verde v South Africa (8.30pm) At Rades, Tu­nisia: Tu­nisia v Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo (10pm) At Ra­bat: Morocco v Mali (10pm) SATUR­DAY At Lusaka: Zam­bia v Al­ge­ria (3pm) At Li­bre­ville: Gabon v Ivory Coast (6pm) At Dakar: Sene­gal v Burk­ina Faso (10pm) have re­quested both Morocco and South Africa to be on standby.

For­mer Foot­ball Kenya Fed­er­a­tion (FKF) pres­i­dent Sam Nyamweya seemed to con­firm the grow­ing feel­ing around the con­ti­nent that Kenya would be stripped of its host­ing rights when he ex­pressed his con­cerns this week.

“It will be un­for­tu­nate if Chan is taken away from Kenya,” he said.

“I can’t imag­ine that the re­sources we spent to put in a bid will go to waste. I hope some­thing ur­gent is done to en­sure the tour­na­ment is staged here.”

The po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Nairobi since Uhuru Keny­ata de­feated Raila Odinga in hotly dis­puted

Vic­to­ries away to Congo and at home to Ghana have them top of the ta­ble on six points, two more than Uganda.

While Uganda and Egypt square off, Ghana play Congo twice and be­lieve two wins can get them back into con­tention for a fourth con­sec­u­tive World Cup ap­pear­ance.

Were the “Black Stars” to col­lect six points and Uganda and Egypt draw twice, the west Africans would be just one point be­hind the Pharaohs.

But it is dif­fi­cult to im­age, even if two wins for Ghana over strug­gling Congo are cer­tainly a pos­si­bil­ity.

Ev­i­dence from the 2017 Cup of Na­tions in Gabon is that Egypt have im­proved dra­mat­i­cally un­der Cu­per and good re­sults have taken them to the top of the Fifa Africa rank­ings.

Ex­pect the Pharaohs to draw in Kam­pala and win in Alexan­dria, mov­ing them sig­nif­i­cantly closer to Rus­sia and al­low­ing Cu­per to ditch that “bridesmaid” tag.

In an­other match­day 3 fix­ture next Thurs­day, point­less Group A pair Guinea and Libya clash in Conakry and only a vic­tory will give ei­ther the slimmest chance of qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, whose last World Cup ap­pear­ance was in 1974 as Zaire, and Tu­nisia share top spot on six points. pres­i­den­tial elec­tions has not made mat­ters eas­ier for the east Africans, who face the prospect of be­ing stripped of their host­ing rights.

But the ru­mours of the host­ing rights been taken away from Kenya were fu­elled by Caf pres­i­dent Ah­mad Ah­mad’s re­cent vis­its to both Morocco and South Africa, where it is be­lieved he re­quested the two coun­tries to be on standby.

Should South Africa be granted the rights to host the 2018 event, it would be a case of deja vu as back in 1996, Kenya were sup­posed to host the Africa Cup of Na­tions tour­na­ment but due to their state of un­pre­pared­ness, the rights were given to South Africa, who ended up win­ning the event.

Morocco have not de­nied that they could step in and in fact, want the Chan to be the fore­run­ner to their ex­press ob­jec­tive of host­ing the ex­panded 2019 Af­con, which again is also be­com­ing doubt­ful whether Cameroon would be able to host.

South African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Safa) pres­i­dent Danny Jor­daan, who is also a mem­ber of the newly elected Caf ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee, has di­plo­mat­i­cally re­it­er­ated that the 2018 Chan is sched­uled for Kenya and pleaded ig­no­rance about the lat­est de­vel­op­ments.

“Treat such as bla­tant ru­mours,” said Wario.

“We are go­ing to host Chan next year; don’t be mis­led by what is hap­pen­ing in so­cial me­dia,” Wario stressed amid grow­ing ru­mours that Morocco has even started putting to­gether an or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee.

Wario added that five venues Ki­noru in Meru, Nyayo (Nairobi), Kipchego Keino (El­doret) and Kasarani (Nairobi) - ear­marked to host the com­pe­ti­tion are un­der­go­ing ren­o­va­tions.

“I have per­son­ally vis­ited most of the facilities and there­fore I say this from a point of knowl­edge,” Wario em­pha­sised, even though the ques­tion re­mains as to whether the venues will be ready a mere four months be­fore the tour­na­ment is due to kick off.

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