The Star Late Edition - - OPINION -

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.

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