With barely four months to the opening of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2017, questions are being raised about a possible plan B of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) with respect to who hosts the tournament.
Till now, Gabon were the known hosts of the competition but talk of a possible plan B has arisen in the wake of political developments in the country.
In about a month, (i.e. October 19) CAF will be expected to undertake the AFCON draw in the Gabonese capital, Libreville. The feasibility of that event could determine if Gabon will still host the African football showpiece.
Behind the scenes however, there is talk that the Issa Hayatou-led continental football governing body is preparing a plan B depending on how the political events in Gabon unfold in the coming days or months.
Choices were notably covered. First, the hosting rights should naturally be handed to Algeria, who lost out to Gabon. That option seems distant because the country’s infrastructure as at now is insufficient.
The other alternative would be Algeria’s north African neighbour, Morocco. The Kingdom of Morocco is listed as the only African country to have substantial infrastructure as at now, to host the competition. The country has four standard stadiums and other transport and housing facilities.
They pulled out of hosting the 2015 AFCON over fears of Ebola spread especially with west African players coming to the tournament. They were subsequently replaced by Equatorial Guinea.
CAF imposed financial sanctions and two AFCON participation bans on Morocco (2017 and 2019) but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned the ban allowing Morocco to participate in CAF organized events.
“There will be no change, we are following proceedings closely. As things stand, the schedule is being maintained, the draw for the finals will take place at Libreville on October 19 as scheduled,” media director and spokesperson of CAF, Junior Binyam, is reported to have said in early September. His position affirming that the continental governing body was sticking to Gabon as hosts.
A series of protests broke out after the announcement of incumbent Ali Bongo as winner of the August 27 polls. His main opponent Jean Ping has lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court. Political watchers say the outcome of the crisis remains uncertain.