Equatorial Guinea was chosen Friday to host the 2015 African Cup of Nations in place of Morocco, taking the continent’s top soccer tournament back to the oil-rich country that has been criticized for having an oppressive and corrupt regime.
The decision by the Confederation of African Football also immediately stirred sporting controversy because Equatorial Guinea’s national team was invited to participate as host despite being previously disqualified from the competition for cheating.
Equatorial Guinea is the late replacement for Morocco, which was stripped of hosting rights this week after asking for the tournament to be delayed over Ebola fears.
The country was praised Friday by the African Union for taking over the hosting duties of the 16-team tournament.
“(Ebola) should not paralyze continental programs and events,” African Union Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said.
Equatorial Guinea co-hosted the tournament with neighbor Gabon in 2012, when its human rights record under longtime president Teodoro Obiang Nguema also came under scrutiny.
The country agreed to step in at short notice and will hold the 2015 tournament on the planned dates of Jan. 17-Feb. 8 — part of CAF’s requirements as the soccer body scrambled to find a replacement.
The agreement was struck Friday after a meeting between African football leader Issa Hayatou of Cameroon and President Obiang, CAF said.
“Following fraternal and fruitful discussions, the Head of State of Equatorial Guinea has agreed to host the tournament,” CAF said in a statement. “Therefore, the Executive Committee of CAF confirms that the … Africa Cup of Nations 2015 will be held in Equatorial Guinea on the dates agreed.”
For the 2015 African Cup, Equatorial Guinea will use four cities to host games: Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin, CAF said.
Malabo — the capital which is located on an island off the mainland — and Bata hosted games in 2012 in newly-built stadiums. It was unclear what stadiums would be used in the other two cities as CAF didn’t announce any other details on the venues.
CAF also announced the final draw for the tournament will take place in Malabo on Dec. 3.
Powered by WordPress.com VIP