Why Zambia Lost the 2019 AfCON Bid

Fans line up on the streets to welcome Chipolopolo boysSo three French-speaking countries in the same region get to host 3 AFCONS in a row? And CAF sees nothing wrong with that? That is the question veteran BBC journalist Farayi Mungazi posed on social network twitter soon after the Confederation of African Football had handed the next three Africa Cup of Nations to Francophone countries in Cameroun (2019), Ivory Coast (2012) and Guinea (2013) maybe rendering credence to the street joke that it is now WAFUCON (West African Football Union Cup of Nations. But should anyone really be surprised by this turn of events?

Unless you are so extraordinarily naïve CAF has always been a closed society and no matter the times a few lone voices point out this painful reality, they are just dismissed.

By the way the six of the last 13 Africa Cup of Nations have been staged in West Africa. Zambia had pushed through a bid to host the 2019 Africa Cup and there was beginning to be a confident air around the possibility of being granted the right to host the continent’s most prestigious soccer showpiece. Naturally as is almost the case with Zambia we were getting carried away by our sense of hope or illusion as may have rightly been the case.

If anyone thought these bids are won on a fair scale then I guess all countries would have been escorting Algeria notwithstanding the damage the death of a Cameroonian player Albert Ebosse starring for Setif left caused to their otherwise superior bid.

By the time the CAF congress was making the 30 minute presentation in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, the bids had long been sealed. Issa Hayatou has defied both age and health to cling on to the CAF presidency from 1988 and has shown like his teacher at FIFA Sepp Blatter football starts and ends with him.

Of all the countries that have been granted the right to host the Africa Cup, two have already had a go at the tournament with only Guinea having to host for the first time.

The Democratic Republic of Congo had withdrawn from the race two months ago.
Cameroon, who will stage the tournament in 2019, previously staged the Nations Cup in 1972. Hayatou’s countrymen have lined up the venues as Bafoussam, Douala, Garoua and Yaounde and they are hardly the reason the bid was won if you subject them to a stringent test.

Ivory Coast, awarded the 2021 edition, are also former hosts, having staged the Cup of Nations in 1984. The Ivorians plan to use five cities – Abidjan, Bouake, Korhogo, San Pedro and the administrative capital Yamoussoukro.

Zambia was pushing the bid on the strength of their two recently built stadia – Levy Mwanawasa and the Heroes National and the promise of another in Livingstone and the Copperbelt region. By the way Zambia is the only past winners of the Africa Cup of Nations never to have hosted it.

There was also the delusional yet publicly flaunted belief popularized by a certain worshipping cadre of football followers that FAZ president Kalusha Bwalya had enough connections on his individuality to have swung the bid Zambia’s way.

It would defy the very logic he is part of the CAF executive committee as he won his place in February 2011 after having been muscled in by the Hayatou camp and in that aspect his lips are sealed. He has been their eye in addition to Suketu Patel of Seychelles in the Southern African region albeit at the expense of alienating other regional football heads.

CAF may have been all too happy with the rapidity and ‘humility’ he accepted their decision soon after it was announced. With his CAF Congress seat up for election in April, next year it may prove a worthy investment for the future.

How else do you think Hayatou has stayed this long at the helm of CAF? Bwalya is complicit to whatever is going on and if Zambians have any questions they better direct them to him. Unless of course the view is that the bid was fairly lost. Infact, he profusely defended the unpopular clause that virtually installs Hayatou as CAF life president. Who knows who he could have voted for in the bid when it was a secret ballot?

Hayatou has drawn on the loyalty and support of the West African Football Association that has thrown its weight behind him every time there has been muffled dissent surfacing the CAF hierarchy. What better way to reward this loyalty than hand them a lifetime worth of Africa Cups.Is it not a tired story of being shortchanged on accolades on winners for individual awards at CAF gala events?

By the way title sponsors of the Africa Cup of Nations mobile phone giant Orange has a strong presence in West Africa where they sponsor leagues across that region and cannot very easily be bypassed when it comes to where the tournament goes. Would it be a coincidence that they are in Cameroun, Ivory Coast and Guinea?

So strong is the sponsor power in CAF that for the duration of the 2013 Africa Cup in South Africa FNB Stadium had to be renamed national stadium or for the more sentimental bunch Soccer City was tolerable and FNB had to pull down all their banners for the duration of the tournament? Standard Bank the official bankers for CAF and also amongst the sponsors for the Africa Cup set out that condition.

Even the respected late Tom Mtine had to discover what a closed shop CAF was the hard way in 1980 when he attempted the Presidency against incumbent Ydkatchew Tessema and humiliatingly lost 30 votes to 2 with only Lesotho backing him. Two years later he scaled down his ambitions in Tripoli Libya challenging Vice President Oyo Orak of Nigeria but withdrew at the last minute when it became clear that he could not marshal enough support and Mtine was not just flaunting football skills but was a respected and accomplished administrator. FAZ President Kalusha Bwalya had a taste of this CAF clique in 2004 when his first CAF bid flopped in Lagos Nigeria. Need we mention oilman Evaristo Kasunga’s CAF attempt even with the humblest of connections?

So the next we intend to bid for the Africa Cup of Nations we should consider having coffee with Hayatou or probably have a word with one Mohammed Bin Hammam maybe just that may earn us the right to join the Hayatou golden circle. But please remember to keep the eagle eyed British press away; they may just blow it all away. Or maybe we go the emotional and self destructive Chishimba Kambwili way of ditching CAF forgetting that just a week before the inspectors were in the country Kambwili made headlines for invading the pitch – a football ‘crime’ so much loathed?


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