The violence that has been a plague for Libya has forced the country to give up hosting the African Cup of Nations football tournament in 2017. The decision was made over security concerns in the unstable African nation and was not a surprise.
Since the 2011 overthrowing of Moammar Gadhafi, violence has taken hold of the country. The ongoing unrest between nationalist and Islamist fighters forced the country to give up its original hosting duties for the 2013 tournament. The 2017 tournament was given to Libya after having to forfeit the 2013 tournament. However, the violence in the oil rich North African country over the past three years has not subsided to a level that the organizers feel safe for teams and fans or have the confidence that the four stadiums needed for the 16 team tournament will be ready for the games that start in January 2017.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) was notified that the North African nation was backing out of their host role for the African Cup of Nations in Cairo, Egypt on Friday. At the African top football body’s headquarters, the football federation head and sports minister for Libya led a delegation to inform Issa Hayatou, CAF President of the country’s decision to withdraw.
The violence that has continued since the overthrowing of Gadhafi has escalated to new levels recently. There has been a growing power struggle going on since Gadhafi was ousted and Tripoli, Libya’s capital and Benghazi have both been inundated with battles between rival militias. Tripoli’s airport has been under siege for weeks now. Due to the battles intensifying, the Tripoli airport has been closed since July.
With Libya conceding the tournament, organizers are in a state of frenzy as they search for a new host for the African Cup of Nations tournament. Cameroon, Guinea, Algeria, Zambia and Ivory Coast were already on the list as potential tournament hosts for the 2019 and 2021. There is a strong possibility that one of these countries may be asked to push forward two years to pick up the 2013 tournament hosting duties. Another potential replacement host, South Africa, may also be asked to take over for Libya again. After the Northern African country was unable to act as host in 2013, South Africa stepped up to host the top football tournament in Africa.
The potential replacement host has until the end of September to submit a bid to CAF to host the 2017 tournament in Libya’s place. This would give the new host barely two years to prepare for the games, where normally the host nation would have a full four years to organize for the tournament. Out of all the potential hosts for the short notice, it appears that the likely candidate would be Algeria. Morocco would be a potential host, except that the country will be hosting the 2015 tournament, and likely would not even be considered to host another one two years later.
On Saturday, Hicham El Amrani, the CAF Secretary General released the news of Libya’s decision to back out and announcing that new bids for the 2017 hosting duties for the Africa Cup of Nations. The notification went out to all 54 member associations in Africa and new bids are due to the CAF offices by Tuesday, September 30.
By Carl Auer