LET’S ANSWER AFRICA’S CLARION CALL
FOR THE third time since the dawn of democracy in this country, Africa has sent a desperate plea to our soccer authorities. CAF, the continental soccer controlling body, has asked the SA Football Association to consider hosting the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations tournament (Afcon).
The biennial soccer showpiece was initially scheduled to take place in Cameroon, but CAF decided to take those rights away from them because of delays in the building of stadiums.
We have already hosted the tournament twice when the original hosts were unable to do so – in 2013, replacing war-torn Libya, and in 1996 after stepping in at the last minute in place of Kenya.
South Africa, and probably Morocco, are arguably the only African countries able to host the competition at such short notice – it is due to take place in June-July 2019. Because of the 2010 World Cup legacy, South Africa already has all the requirements in place to host an event of this magnitude. We have the hotels, broadcasting infrastructure, airports, roads, health facilities and stadiums.
According to independent estimates, hosting the Afcon Cup will cost $10 million – R140m at today’s exchange rate. Compared to the megabucks we spent on 2010, this is a drop in the ocean.
We strongly support hosting next year’s tournament. While South Africa has other pressing social issues, hosting the tournament is a wise investment from which we will reap massive benefits.
It will bring a much-needed injection into our economy by creating temporary jobs. It will give our hospitality industry a boost.
The towns and cities where the stadiums are situated will get an enormous lift. Some of our World Cup stadiums are running at a loss and having 24 national teams and their hosts of supporters on our shores can only spell good news.
Hosting Afcon 2019 will spread our well-known sense of goodwill. But more than anything, it is the right thing to do if we still harbour designs on being the continent’s pre-eminent torch-bearer.
We are at present bidding to host the Women’s World Cup in 2023. Guess whose support we will need to make this a reality? That is the bigger picture to bear in mind as the December 31 deadline looms.