Cameroon’s ongoing insecurity crisis continues to come at a cost.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF), the continent’s soccer governing body, has stripped Cameroon of its right to host the African Cup of Nations (AFCON)—the continent’s biggest sports event. The tournament is due to kick off in June 2019 following a shift from its usual January-February dates. Cameroon was originally awarded hosting rights in January 2014.
At a meeting in Accra, Ghana today (Nov. 30), CAF cited Cameroon’s lack of adequate stadium infrastructure and its pressing insecurity issues as factor for its decision.
Peaceful protests in Cameroon’s Anglophone-speaking regions over a lack of representation in the French-led national government have escalated over the past two years. Indeed, Cameroon’s brutal military crackdown on separatist movement in Anglophone regions have resulted in claims of genocide—and fears of a civil war. Cameroon also continues to grapple with the enduring threat of Boko Haram attacks as the terrorist sect remains operative in the country’s far north.
Cameroon’s stadium infrastructure deficit also became even more prominent after CAF chose to expand the competition from 16 to 24 teams.
Interested hosts hoping to replace Cameroon will reportedly have three weeks to present and drum up support their candidacy. Algeria, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire originally had bids to host the 2019 tournament rejected in favor of Cameroon’s bid. However, given the expansion to 24 teams and the short time-frame for hosts to prepare, countries like Morocco and South Africa are touted as favorites.
South Africa has recent experience hosting major sports events having hosted the 2010 World Cup and the 2013 AFCON. For its part, Morocco has made no secret of its desire to host a major sports event and recently had a bid to host the 2026 World Cup rejected.
The situation creates one other sticking point with Cameroon for CAF. As current AFCON champions and qualifying by virtue of being hosts, it’s unclear if moving the tournament elsewhere will also prevent Cameroon from defending its title.
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