When Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Algeria, Guinea, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are in footballing competition, it’s usually through their national teams. But over the next few months, they will be jostling for something else: the right to host the African Cup of Nations (ACN) in 2019 and 2021.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have begun their inspections to determine where the continent will host its football tournament in those years.
One of the contenders -- Guinea -- has already been visited earlier this month. CAF went to the the country's four proposed host cities, including the capital, Conakry. Their eyes ventured beyond the football field, and they looked at hospitals, hotels, roads and airports in the country to assess whether the West African nation would have the logistical capability to stage the event.
Guinea is one of a trio of countries, the other two being Zambia and the DRC, that have never welcomed the continental showpiece. Like their fellow hopefuls, their sports minister, Sanoussy Bantama Sow, "believes it is time" that they get their chance.
The biggest challenge affecting the hopeful hosts is infrastructure. CAF requires a host country to have at least four venues that meet international standards. Last year some of Guinea’s facilities were undergoing construction work, something that has also affected the Zambian bid.
The Southern African country are still due to be inspected, but building at two of the stadiums has been halted because of financial difficulties. Earlier this week, Zambia’s sports minister, Chishimba Kambwili, said the funding would be supplied by the government to complete the venues and said he was "confident we will win the bid."
The Democratic Republic of Congo are planning to centre the event on only two cities, Kinchasa and Lubumbashi, where they already have functioning stadiums. However, they also said they would prepare venues in Matadi and Kisangi for the event. Algeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon have hosted ACN once each in the past, with Algeria the most recent. The Algerians staged the event in 1990 and will use most of the same facilities, and the government has promised $5 million for the organisation of either the 2019 or 2021 ACN.
For the Ivory Coast, which hosted in 1986, inspection of their country will conclude on Friday. The county was in the running to host the 2006 event, but political turmoil saw it go to Egypt instead. No news has emerged from their camp on any construction.
Cameroon last saw continental football in it’s backyard in 1972. The sports minister has promised upgrades to the stadiums that were used then in Yaounde, Douala and Garona, as well as two new, modern venues to be built in the capital, Yaounde.
Apart from building new stadiums, there are other good reasons for the interest in staging ACN. South Africa, the latest host of the competition, reportedly had several positive benefits from staging the event. Aside from automatic entry to compete with the continent’s best -- experience that comes in handy ahead of crucial World Cup qualifiers, which inevitably follow every second ACN -- the tournament allows for job creation, investment and marketing for the country’s tourism.
CAF will decide this September who has the right to those privileges in 2019 and 2021.