Cape Town – A stimulating, timely boost for South African soccer on the one hand, but fraught with tricky problems and huge financial implications on the other.
This is the stark, contradictory situation that suggests SAFA’s late bid to replace Cameroon as the hosts of next year’s Africa Nations Cup has all the trappings of a two-edged sword.
What stands out immediately is that when CAF make their decision on the hosting issue at an executive meeting in Senegal on January 9, the successful country – and at this point a changing scenario has either Egypt or South Africa as the firm frontrunners – there will be less than five months to make the maze of arrangements, both financial and otherwise, that realistically and rationally should require a year or two to implement.
But it is not the first time that CAF finds itself in such a morass after the belated decision to strip Cameroon of hosting rights because of the failure to implement all the required facilities – and sadly it is not likely to be the last the way the continent’s national body operates.
Initially, the widespread view was that Morocco, smarting from failed bids to stage both the 2010 and 2026 World Cups, would be the automatic replacements.
But despite the Moroccan soccer authorities demonstrating a degree of interest in becoming the Nations Cup hosts, the country’s political authorities, who were required to make the final ruling, decided firmly that the problematic situation that now confronts South Africa and Egypt was too complex to undertake.
For South Africa one of the main pluses in staging the Nations Cup is that Bafana Bafana would be assured of a place in the competition as the hosts, something that is not certain right now because defeat in a prospective qualifying fixture in March against Libya would mean their opponents go into the enlarged 24-team competition instead.
And also, as hosts, Bafana would have an unforeseen advantage to make a major and much-needed impact in the event and provide soccer fans with an appetising program of games to watch at first hand.
With almost all the 2010 World Cup hosting stadiums available, venues would be no problem either. But finance looms as a major bugbear for what has been estimated a minimum budget of R150 million and SAFA’s organisational acumen also comes into question – particularly in view of the contradictory and diverse statements made by top officials over the hosting bid.
Following the disturbing recent revelation that SAFA had suffered a R18-million loss during the past financial year, the organisation would seem to be in no state to bear the considerable brunt of the Nations Cup moneywise and would require the government to do the job instead.
But even if it is thought to be fine and dandy in theory by the government, with financial debacles on their plate like those surrounding SAA Airways, Eskom and the odious implications of State Capture, spending a fortune on a soccer tournament could be deemed as placing priorities out of the realms of reality.
A glimmer of financial encouragement for South Africa is that billionaire Melody Sundown’s owner, Petros Motsepe, South African soccer’s biggest benefactor, is believed to be ready to offer his support – and he achieved what many would have thought as impossible by tempting mighty Barcelona FC to South Africa this year for a game against Sundowns.
However, an entire tournament involving 24 nations and lasting a month is an altogether different kettle of fish.
Egypt, on the other hand, are in a different situation, with the national team already assured of Nations Cup qualification, no matter where the tournament is staged – and most of the North Africa countries who had indicated they would support Morocco as the host nation, having now switched their allegiance to the country on the banks of the Nile.
So who wants it most? Egypt or South Africa – and with unpredictable CAF at the helm it could even be an unlikely third party or even a postponement of the tournament altogether.