25 January 2011
South Africa and Morocco went head to head seven years ago for the right to stage the first World Cup in Africa and the former emerged 14-10 winners after a FIFA executive vote.
After winning worldwide praise for their hosting of the 2010 World Cup won by Spain, South Africa have adjusted their sights toward the African Cup of Nations and want to put on the 2015 show.
Morocco are their only rivals, but this time both countries are likely to be winners unless there is an extraordinary decision when the executive of African football governing body CAF meet in the Democratic Republic of Congo Friday.
CAF are also due to choose the 2017 hosts and given there are only two contenders it seems logical that Morocco and South Africa will get one tournament each with the only issue being which year they host it.
There is a theory that the CAF hierarchy like to alternate hosts between north and sub-saharan Africa, but Tunisia (2004) and Egypt (2006) staged consecutive tournaments.
Sub-saharan countries Ghana (2008) and Angola (2010) were the next hosts of the biennial African football showpiece and central states Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are next in 2012 before it goes back north to Libya.
An even-year championship since 1968, the Cup will switch to uneven years from 2013 in Libya to avoid every second edition being staged just four months before the World Cup.
While the build-up to many Cup of Nations tournaments has been overshadowed by a desperate battle to get stadia and accommodation ready in time, South Africa has 10 World Cup stadiums to pick from for the four-venue African event.
South African Football Association president Kirsten Nematandani said: “All the World Cup cities would have to make bid presentations. That would be a fair method as not all 10 can be used for the Nations Cup.
“We believe there is no better way to thank Africa for supporting us during the World Cup than hosting the African tournament. It will give our national team a chance to get where they want — number one on the continent.”
Hosts and winners in 1996 after Kenya withdrew, South Africa did well off the field apart from embarrassingly small crowds at most matches not involving Bafana Bafana (The Boys).
While the World Cup delivered near-capacity crowds, many seats were filled by local white and mixed-race fans while a lot of blacks — the nucleus of domestic support — had to settle for TV because of prohibitive ticket prices.
Wooing these ‘World Cup’ fans back to the stadia for the Cup of Nations and delivering a lot of affordable tickets to the low-income market will represent the greatest challenges for South Africa.
Morocco have added stadiums in Fes, Marrakech and Tangiers to top-class Casablanca and Rabat venues as they seek a second hosting after finishing fourth behind Cameroon, Nigeria and Algeria when they staged the 1988 finals.
Sports minister Said Belkhayat is upbeat: “Morocco is determined to organise these games in the best way possible — to deliver the best Nations Cup in the history of the competition.”
A CAF executive headed by Issa Hayatou from Cameroon is scheduled to choose the hosts in southern mining city Lubumbashi, which plays host Saturday to the African Super Cup between local club TP Mazembe and FUS Rabat from Morocco.
Egypt and Ghana have hosted four Cup of Nations tournaments each, Ethiopia and Tunisia three, Sudan and Nigeria two, and 10 other countries have staged it once.