JOHANNESBURG – As South Africa reeled on Wednesday after a humiliating defeat by Egypt in a contest to decide the new 2019 Africa Cup of Nations hosts, the blame game began.
South African football officials said the 16-1 vote in favour of Egypt in Senegal on Tuesday was “political”, without offering insight.
Confederation of African Football (Caf) president Ahmad Ahmad said Egypt politicians were more enthusiastic than their South African counterparts about the June 15-July 13 event.
A Caf insider told AFP that South Africa have not been forgiven for backing the winning Canada/Mexico/United States 2026 World Cup bid instead of sole rivals Morocco.
Acting South African Football Association (Safa) chief executive Russell Paul said: “Technically, there is no country in Africa better suited to host the Cup of Nations than South Africa.
“We do not have a fight with Egypt. We have a fight with the way the process unfolded,” he added, referring to the vote being brought forward 24 hours without an explanation.
“A delegation had been prepared for a Wednesday presentation, only to find that the Egyptians had been there for a while, with government representatives, ready to present their case.”
Speaking in Dakar, Ahmad said the two candidates had equally good infrastructure, and the greater political enthusiasm of Egypt was the key factor.
“Our audit firm said the infrastructure was equal, so we assessed the political commitment in the two countries, and Egypt came out on top.
“Members of the (Caf) executive committee did not feel any real support from the South African government to carry the project forward.”
Malagasy Ahmed acknowledged that there were security concerns regarding Egypt, with three Vietnamese tourists killed in a recent terror attack there.
“Before the 2018 World Cup, people were worried about the security situation in Russia, but they worked hard, and there were no incidents,” he said.
South Africa have had cool political relations with Morocco because the republic backs the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, who are contesting land occupied by the Moroccans.
On government instructions, South Arica backed the American/Canadian/Mexican 2026 bid, which comfortably outvoted the Moroccans.
This decision reportedly infuriated Ahmad, leading to South African media speculation that he encouraged Caf executives to support Egypt.
“South Africa voting for the USA, especially after president Donald Trump had publicly criticised the people of the continent, was seen as anti-African,” the CAF insider said.
“The feeling ahead of the vote in Senegal was that Egypt were favourites, but no one expected such a landslide victory.”
The contest between Egypt and South Africa was necessitated after Caf dropped original hosts Cameroon last November because of delays in preparations and security concerns.
Under an Ahmad plan still to be finalised, Cameroon will now host the 2021 Cup of Nations, with the Ivory Coast (2023) and Guinea (2025) staging the following two editions.
From this year, the tournament moves from January/February to June/July to avoid club-versus-country dilemmas for Africans based in Europe, and the number of qualifiers has been expanded from 16 to 24.AFP