GABON CUP OF NATIONS 2017
By Franck Felix Gutenberg, US Africa News. Updated 2015-04-20
The hosting of the 31st African Cup of Nations in 2017 goes to Gabon over Algeria and Ghana.
Initially planned in Libya before that country’s civil war intervened, Africa’s Cup of Nations 2017 will finally be held in Gabon, a country that already co-hosted the event in 2012 with Equatorial Guinea, including hosting the final game on home soil at Libreville. The following three Cup of Nations slots have already been awarded—Cameroon (2019), Ivory Coast (2021) and Guinea (2023).
After Libya withdrew from hosting Cup of Nations 2017, seven countries had applied for the slot: Algeria, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Kenya, Sudan and Zimbabwe saw their applications rejected by the CAF (Confederation of African Football) because they did not meet the required criteria, and Egypt had withdrawn. Ghana was the favorite due to the unwritten rule of alternation between Francophone and Anglophone countries, and the success of the tournament there in 2008. Algeria counted on strong support from the president of the federation, Mohamed Raouraoua, an influential member within the CAF. But it had also been hampered by recurring episodes of violence at its domestic games.
The Executive Committee, consisting of President Issa Hayatou, vice presidents Suketu Patel and Almamy Kabele Camara, and eleven other members, opted for security by selecting Gabon, which shortly after voiced thanks to the CAF for its confidence. "A success for Gabon and a great joy for African youth," rejoiced tweeter Gabonese President Ali Bongo. The small equatorial oil nation of about 1.5 million inhabitants is a stable country, which Bongo dreams of a turning into a standard destination for major sporting events, in the image of Qatar. The hosting of the French Champions Trophy in August 2013 (Paris SG -Bordeaux, 2-1) was one of the first milestones of the sports component in the government’s plan for "Emerging Gabon".
The qualifying groups drawn following the announcement of the host countries include Morocco, which had officially withdrawn in November from Cup of Nations 2015, due to Ebola. First suspended by CAF, it was reinstated for qualification after receiving a favorable decision last week from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The playoffs will take place from mid-June 2015 to early September 2016 with thirteen groups of four teams each. The group winners and the two best runners-up will go to finals, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon team automatically qualifying as the host country. These standout competitors include Nigeria and Egypt in Group G (along with Tanzania and Chad) Cameroon and South Africa in the M Group (in addition to Gambia and Mauritius). Côte d'Ivoire is matched in Group I with Sudan, Sierra Leone and Gabon. The matches against the latter will not be counted.
This choice of Gabon as the host country is a surprise; the Algerian authorities had been so confident of the outcome of the election that the Algerian press spoke of a "slap". In the streets of Algiers, some criticized the choice of CAF. "Algeria could host a Cup of Nations every quarter,” assures a passerby. “Where the Gabonese have ten stadiums across the country, we have at least 200 in Algeria. We have about fifty airports," he added. But others believe that Algeria could not afford to host the event. "It's not just the equipment. We are not able to accommodate these kinds of competitions," retorted another street authority.
"How can you host a Cup of Nations when you haven’t had a president in I don’t know how long?” asks another. “It is not even a country! What is happening is absurd, so I'm glad it’s not happening here.” And yet another respondent: “The people of Africa come to the Cup of Nations. And if Algeria can’t be a good host, it is better for it to be held elsewhere."