CAIRO – Egyptian Minister of Sports and Youth, Ashraf Sobhy, has allayed fears ahead of the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament, saying the country was ready to host the event in two months’ time.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 53rd annual training of African journalists in Cairo, Sobhy said renovations of the six stadiums that will play host to the tournament are will be completed by mid-May.
“We are expecting that by the end of May, everything will be in order for the event,” said Sobhy, adding that the Afcon was meeting its schedule.
“No new stadiums are to be built for the tournament, and in addition to the six (main) stadiums, local stadiums would be used as training facilities,” said Sobhy.
South Africa and Egypt were front-runners to inherit the event after Cameroon was stripped of the rights to host the tournament, having failed to meet timelines for upgrading infrastructure.
In January, Egypt was named the tournament’s emergency hosts.
Sobhy, the former head of Cairo Stadium, said: “I am not worried at all about Egypt’s readiness for the upcoming tournament.”
Egypt have won the Afcon title seven times, including three in a row between 2006 and 2010. They will also be hosting the tournament for the fourth time, while Cameroon will hold the 2021 event instead.
“We are hosting the event as a testimony of the ability of Egypt and the rest of the continent,” said Sobhy.
The Cairo Stadium, with a 75 000-seater capacity, is expected to host the opening and closing matches, and the Al Salam Stadium also in Cairo – with a capacity of 30 000 – are among the six stadiums to receive a facelift ahead of the tournament.
Other stadiums are the Alexandria Stadium in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria with 20 000 seats, and the Haras El Hodoud Stadium, with a 22 000 capacity, also in Alexandria.
The 27 000-seater Suez Stadium and the 18 000-seater Port Said Stadium will be revived following its suspension in 2012, when 72 people died in violent clashes during a league game between Al Masry and Al Ahly.
The Ismailia Stadium, with 18 000 seats, will also host the event.
The event, which is due to run from June 21 until July 19, will feature 24 countries for the first time since the decision to expand from 16 teams.
Countries including South Africa, Morocco, Namibia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Senegal will participate in the tournament.
Last month, the Confederation of African Football (Caf), which inspected various infrastructure and facilities across the country, said Egypt would be “ready” to stage this year’s Afcon, despite limited preparation time.