By Atia Tilarious Azohnwi
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has stripped Cameroon off the rights to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON.
The decision was taken on Friday, November 30, 2018 by the Executive Committee of CAF meeting in an extraordinary assembly in Accra, Ghana.
The continent’s football governing body said their decision was based on the slow pace of works in the venues expected to host the competition, coupled with security challenges facing the country.
CAF added that countries interested to host the competition have until the end of December to submit their bids before a decision is taken.
CAF has however not yet officially notified Cameroon who have an option to appeal before the Court of Arbitration of Sports.
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CAF’s decision to withdraw Cameroon’s right to host the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations tournament next year was received with a lot of mixed feelings.
The government of Cameroon through her Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary expressed shock over CAF’s Friday decision, insisting that Cameroon is more than capable of hosting the tournament.
Meanwhile the country’s opposition and ordinary citizens have reacted with bewilderment at the turn of events which came to many as unexpected.
Social media has been awash with heated exchanges by those critical of what they see as the incompetence of the government incapable of meeting the expectations of CAF after it gave Cameroon the right to host the football tournament in September 2014.
“The sadness and desolation are gripping the hearts of Cameroonians tonight. Our country did not deserve that, no, no and no! And yet it happened,” Jean Michel Nintcheu, a member of the National Assembly and the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) said in a statement.
“I am very sad for my country. What can I say that has not been said? Let me suffer in silence,” Emmanuel Simh, a lawyer at the Cameroon Bar lamented.
Communicator Jean Claude Bilana demanded that those responsible for the incompetence be arrested, describing them as imposer.
For Baba Wame, a tutor of journalism, the government is to blame for taking two years after CAF awarded Cameroon the hosting right before they began infrastructure works.
“What must be said without any equivocation is that there are people who have failed. What must be said without blinking is that since 2014, we have had at least four years to avoid the imbroglio. What must be said with force is that active diplomacy in the direction of the CAF just saved the furniture from a humiliation that could have been greater,” said sports journalist, Martin Camus Mimb.
He claimed that although he is a member of the Local Organizing Committee (COCAN) charged with preparing for the tournament, he was never invited to a single meeting.
Jean Lambert Nang, a former head of the sport service on national television said: “Our honour is flouted, our pride sold by leaders who only live for money… They are unable to tell the truth to the President of the Republic because their ambition is to last in power and to last again. They have no concern for the people who ask only for bread and games.”
Meanwhile, a cloak of embarrassment seems to be enveloping the corridors of power in Yaoundé where the state media did not make any reference to CAF’s decision to withhold 2019 tournament from Cameroon.
Although CAF said it had given Cameroon time to prepare for the tournament, it was seen as struggling to complete its infrastructure works connected to hosting the event from June 15 to July 13 next year.
Its members were meeting on the sidelines of the women’s African Cup of Nations that rounded off in Ghana over the weekend.
CAF president Ahmad Ahmad said a replacement host will be determined by a body which would be appointed to develop a tender for that purpose.
Morocco along with South Africa are the clear favourites to win the bid to host the next Africa Cup of Nations in its expanded format, featuring 24 instead of 16 teams for the first time.
Minister Tchiroma says all projects earmarked for 2019 AFCON will continue to undergo rehabilitation and construction despite CAF’s decision to withdraw the country’s right to host the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations tournament next year.
Minister Tchiroma was speaking to the press Saturday in Yaounde. He said the government is still shocked over CAF’s unfair decision insisting that Cameroon was capable of hosting the competition.
He however urged Cameroonians to remain calm, stating the country will not relent efforts in developing African football.
Ahmad Ahmad had said it was left for Cameroon to decide to not host the competition. He went as far as saying that CAF had no plan B after an audience with Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya. It is not known where things got sour for Cameroon, but CAF has promised to help Cameroon prepare in a bid to host any future AFCON of her choice.