CAF President Ahmad Questions Cameroon's Ability to host AFCON 2019

CAF Topher.png

More doubt has been cast by the Confederation of African Football over Cameroon’s ability to host next year’s Africa Cup of Nations, with CAF President Ahmad Ahmad raising the possibility that the tournament may be moved.

This isn’t the first time President Ahmad has expressed doubt in Cameroon’s ability to hold AFCON 2019. With the Confederation of African Football’s decision to expand the tournament from 16 to 24 teams made back in July 2017, the demand for up to snuff infrastructure has been a source of increased tension between the federation and host nation.

After an inspection in February, CAF President Ahmad Ahmad urged Cameroon to improve their efforts to convince the federation of their viability as hosts after the inspection revealed that preparations were behind schedule.

CAF President Ahmad Ahmad AFP/Getty Images

CAF President Ahmad Ahmad AFP/Getty Images

Now a year after challenging Cameroon to prove they can host AFCON, taking place between June 7th and 30th 2019, President Ahmad has once again raised the possibility that the tournament could be moved.

"I am not sure Cameroon is ready to host the AFCON," he told KweséESPN. "There are many things which are still wanting and yet there is little time left.

"It would be dangerous to risk African players, especially the professionals plying their trade in Europe and other continents, to play under difficult conditions and facilities."

It must be said that there seems to be a small fount of pressure coming from the Royal Moroccan Football Federation’s official offer to support Cameroon’s hosting efforts. Even though in March, Fouzi Lekjaa, the Royal Moroccan Football Federation President, moved to end speculation regarding next year's AFCON during a press conference during the ongoing CAF Women's Football Symposium, let’s think about it from CAF’s perspective for a second.

With less than a year until AFCON 2019, to express doubt in a nation’s preparations suggests the federation may have contingencies to fall back on. Even though Morocco was eventually looked over by FIFA in their selection of North America as World Cup 2026 hosts, they proved during that process that they had the resources and infrastructure to ensure the potential of a positive, professional, and safe experience for the players and fans alike on that scale.

Dieudonne Happi, the chairman of the Normalisation Committee appointed to run the Cameroonian Football Association said it was a historical moment to see that Morocco is ready to come in and help them stage the biennial tournament.

“There must be no more of the rumours that have been circulating for some time,” he added. “The relationship between the governments of Morocco and Cameroon have come a long way.
— Dieudonne Happi, the chairman of the Normalisation Committee FECAFOOT
FECAFOOT holding a press conference in Cameroon addressing AFCON preparation.

FECAFOOT holding a press conference in Cameroon addressing AFCON preparation.

"This is real brotherhood because the governments of the two countries have always been close," added the FECAFOOT chief. "This puts an end to all rumours. There is no way we can fail to help each other."

In addition to the indirect pressure for Morocco, CAF President Ahmad further expressed the possibility of the tournament being moved by urging Cameroon to be ready.

"If you are not ready, come out open and say you are not ready," Ahmad urged, but will be ready next time.

"In 1996, Burkina Faso was supposed to host the AFCON but said they were not ready, and South Africa took up the chance to host."

Should Cameroon retain the 2019 event, it’ll be the first time they've hosted AFCON since the 1972 edition, which was won by the Republic of Congo after defeating Mali 3-2 in the final.

CAF Afcon inspection committee in Cameroon/Journal Du Cameroon

CAF Afcon inspection committee in Cameroon/Journal Du Cameroon

"If you asked me”, President Ahmad added,” Cameroon would be the best country to host the AFCON now because of their football history, but there are still some questions about their readiness to host a successful tournament.

"Cameroon are still having big problems with infrastructure like the pitches and even hotels," added Ahmad. "Equatorial Guinea jumped in at the last moment to host 2015 AFCON and this can also happen."

The CAF are expected to officially pronounce whether or not Cameroon will retain their hosting rights during the CAF Extraordinary General Assembly to be held on September 30 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. We wait with bated breath.