Cameroon Deserves to Host AFCON 2019

Ahmad Ahmad

The 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is scheduled to take place in Cameroon next June, but it may not take place in my beloved country because Ahmad Ahmad, the new president of the African Football Confederation (CAF), dreams of awarding the tournament to Morocco. The Malagasy is indebted to the the Maghreb country that has helped him win the topmost seat in African football. And in return, he’s bent on withdrawing the AFCON hosting duties from Cameroon in favor of Morocco.

Recall that relations between the Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) and CAF had deteriorated when Morocco refused to host the 2015 AFCON. Fearing that the Ebola epidemic raging at the time would spread to their territory, the Moroccans withdrew at the last minute. CAF escaped embarrassment when the Equatorial Guinean president came to its rescue. Equatorial Guinea organised the African Cup of Nations on short notice, while Morocco was excluded from the 2017 and 2019 African Cup of Nations (a few months later, the Court of Arbitration for Sport cancelled these sanctions).

These incidents stoked up tensions between Issa Hayatou, the former president of CAF, and the FRMF. When the Cameroonian tried to run for yet another term as head of CAF, Morocco gave its full support to its main rival Ahmad. We know the rest: the Malagasy won the elections, and since he took over at CAF, he has had a singular agenda: to take the AFCON’s organization away from Cameroon and hand it over to Morocco in order to repay a debt of gratitude. I don’t know if this version of the facts is true, but it is extremely credible because it explains why Ahmad is striving to take away the organization of the AFCON from my beautiful country.

In all his interviews, Ahmad has maintained that Cameroon is not ready to host a 24-team AFCON. What he fails to mention is that when the AFCON 2019 tournament was awarded to Cameroon in 2014, it was supposed to host 16 teams. The situation changed when Ahmad became President of CAF in 2017. In order to reward all the countries that allowed him to overthrow Issa Hayatou, the Malagasy decided to increase the number of participants from 16 to 24.

This decision is completely stupid, because by allowing half of the African continent to participate in the Nations Cup, the level of the tournament will drop considerably. In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, Ahmad explained that the 24-team AFCON was a wish expressed by African countries.

I believe that if Madagascar or Benin Republic people want to participate in the Nations Cup, then they should make the requisite investments to develop football in their countries. By organizing a 24-team AFCON, the cankers are allowed to participate and the quality of the tournament is diluted. What’s up with this leveling down?

I would also like to point out that most African countries do not have the infrastructure required to organize a 24-team AFCON. Only a handful can: Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia. Does this mean we should be content with all future AFCON editions to be held in these four countries? This is completely ridiculous!

Cameroon has made superhuman efforts to organize the 2019 AFCON. Many Cameroonian citizens have invested huge sums of money to ensure that the tournament is a success. Withdrawing the organization of this showpiece tournament from Cameroon would be extremely cruel to these people.

I know that many African countries have a grudge against us because we are the defending African champions our compatriot Issa Hayatou has ruled CAF without sharing the wealth for 30 years (In Cameroon, we have had the same tyrant for 36 years, so I understand your frustration). Your resentment is legitimate, but I think it’s time to bury the hatchet. Let us stop tearing each other apart and unite to build the future of African football.

Editor’s Note:
The original opinion piece can be found on ‘Un lion parmi les hommes