Magazine article New African

Treasure the Crown Jewel ... While Extending the Frontiers of the African Cup of Nations Is Welcome, the Confederation of African Football's Executive Committee Must Select Tournament Hosts with Better Care

Magazine article New African

Treasure the Crown Jewel ... While Extending the Frontiers of the African Cup of Nations Is Welcome, the Confederation of African Football's Executive Committee Must Select Tournament Hosts with Better Care

Article excerpt

When the decision was made in Cairo, on 4 September 2006, to award the 27th edition of the African Cup of Nations to Angola, there was, understandably, a large gasp of incredulity from the continent's befuddled football community.

Although oil-rich and flush with petrodollars, the Southern African country, which is just emerging from a brutal 30-year civil war that has left millions dead and thousands maimed, did not have the required infrastructure to host a 16-nation tournament.

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Giving the country 39 months to complete four new stadia, as well as improve, exponentially, its transport, hotel and communication facilities to cope with the huge needs of the travelling international media and fans, was an extremely tall order.

It's obvious that Angola will struggle to cope with the very unique demands of hosting the tournament in a year that will grab the attention of the global football fraternity like none before it.

After our reporter made a short inspection visit to the country in mid-December and had a seven-hour wait to clear the customs and immigration controls at Luanda airport (we are not kidding, I can assure you; and it is not an isolated case...), his comments about Angola's suitability and readiness for the Nations Cup included this:

"Luanda lives up to its reputation as the most expensive city in the world, where an ordinary meal will easily set you back $50 a head... The lack of hotels [despite new ones being built] means that a typical hotel room will easily set you back $300 ..."

His facts resonate widely with the views of my colleagues around the world, who are complaining, bitterly, about the prohibitive cost of covering a Nations Cup in Angola. Even my former employer, the BBC, which usually sends the single largest reporting team in the world to the Cup of Nations, has been forced to reduce its usual 20-something team to a meagre four.

It's sad that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) chieftains do not bother to think about the affordability of the tournament for the often financially challenged but passionate African football fan. Or even mere journalists, who are always at the bottom of the pecking order.

Ready to travel thousands of kilometres across our vast continent to partake in the Nations Cup experience, they do not have the deep pockets (or the generous expense accounts of CAF executive committee members) to afford a three-week stay in Angola. …

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