The President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) – Ahmad Ahmad – came out this week to assure Cameroon that the Central African country would host the 2019 African Nations Cup tournament as agreed.
But somehow, I am not convinced. It is not that he speaks in a forked tongue, but I listened to his statement after meeting Cameroon State President Paul Biya, and his assurances do not seem to hold water.
“CAF has never considered withdrawing the AFCON from Cameroon,” said Ahmad, adding that the continental organization will only take a decision whether the Central African country would host or not, at the end of their Presidential elections.
“It depends on the Cameroonians. It is all in their hands, we (CAF) are not the ones organizing the tournament. It is Cameroon that is hosting the tournament and it is them that should come to us tomorrow and say: “we are ready or give us more time, we are not ready.”
People label me Thomas The Unbeliever, and I don’t blame them at all. For I know that it is one of my weaker traits. I find it hard to accept everything at face value. But I detect an undercurrent of a different meaning to Ahmad’s assurances.
First, it is not in Cameroon’s hands, Ahmad should not be economical with the truth. When Cameroon launched a bid to host the 2019 tournament, it was under the understanding that it would be a 16-nation tournament.
But CAF later took a decision to increase the number of participating nations from 16 to 24. Now Cameroon must build additional stadiums, hotels, and training facilities and provide additional clinics and health personnel after initially planning for a 16-team jamboree!
Now for CAF to turn around and say it is up to Cameroon to accept that they can or cannot host the tournament is disingenuous. CAF should get off their high horse and together with Cameroon devise a strategy to ensure they host the event.
And one of the simple solutions would be to engage Cameroon’s neighbors like Nigeria, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea and instruct Cameroon to accommodate 16 countries while either Gabon or Nigeria hosted the additional eight nations for the group stages.
Then once eight teams have been eliminated, the remaining 16 teams can continue with the tournament in Cameroon. It is the best possible solution under the circumstances. Why is CAF washing their hands of the challenges faced by Cameroon when they are supposed to be assisting the land of the Indomitable Lions, as they are responsible for the trials facing the Central Africans?
Why are they reacting only now after Danny Jordaan had written a letter to the Secretary General Amr Fahmy, questioning the logic behind dispatching an Inspection Committee to Cameroon that would be merely to rubberstamp a CAF position that the AFCON must be taken away from Cameroon?
Why is CAF waiting for Cameroon to conduct Presidential elections before making a decision regarding hosting? Why dilly-dally about a simple decision regarding who will host the 2019 event? Why is CAF not offering Cameroon assistance or a solution to their conundrum?
Or is it because they do not want people to know that they have already awarded Morocco the hosting rights?