Egypt has been selected to host of the 2019 edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON)—the continent’s biggest soccer competition.
In an announcement today (Jan. 8), the Confederation of African Football (CAF) picked Egypt ahead of South Africa. As such, Egypt replaces Cameroon after the central African country was stripped of hosting rights due to a lack of adequate stadium infrastructure and pressing insecurity issues.
Ultimately, the decision is crucial for Egypt—the nation with the most AFCON trophies—as it looks to reinvigorate its soccer industry which has been in the doldrums over the last six years following fatal soccer-related riots which left 74 people dead and over 500 injured in 2012.
The riots resulted in the domestic league season suspended and eventually cancelled. The league has since resumed but a blanket ban on having fans in local stadiums lasted six years until last September. Indeed, the brightest spot in Egyptian soccer in recent years has been the emergence of Mo Salah as a global soccer superstar.
The 2019 AFCON is particularly crucial for CAF as it’s the first edition to be played in June and July following a shift from its usual January-February dates. It will also be the first edition to be played with 24 teams—an increase from 16 in the last edition.
But the broad lack of interest from Africa’s biggest countries, except Egypt and South Africa, in hosting the tournament has somewhat dented its allure. In fact, Morocco, which has previously made no secret of its desire to host a major soccer event after several bids for the World Cup, was quick to talk down the possibility of hosting AFCON.
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