South Africa and Libya have agreed to swap hosting rights for their respective African Nations Cup tournaments. The arrangement, if ratified by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) at a meeting in Cairo next month, will see South Africa organise the continental tournament in 2013 and Libya in 2017, giving the war-torn nation more time to prepare.
The infrastructure from the 2010 World Cup has placed South Africa in an ideal position to take over as hosts in the event of CAF needing a plan B. Their skills as shotgun hosts were put to the test earlier this year when the African Youth Championship was moved to South Africa, from Libya, in April. South Africa were given six weeks to organise the event and were widely praised for their ability to do so, further expanding the country's status as default hosts.
In 2009, South Africa hosted two major cricket competitions, the Indian Premier League and the Champions Trophy, after elections in India and security concerns in Pakistan resulted in the events being moved.
South Africa last hosted the African Nations Cup in 1996, which is the year they last won the tournament. The country has failed to emulate that success on the football field, and did not qualify for the previous two African Nations Cups in Egypt and Angola. They currently top their qualification group for the 2012 tournament, which will be hosted in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The tournament will be held in back to back years in 2012 and 2013 to change the pattern of years to avoid future clashes with the World Cup.
While the planning for the continental championships is already looking six years ahead at administrative level, matters on the playing field are being channelled to plan for next year's continental showpiece.
South Africa coach Pitso Mosimane recalled midfielder Teko Modise, who now plays at Mamelodi Sundowns, to the national squad for their qualifier against Niger next Saturday. Siphiwe Tshabalala will lead the team in the absence of the injured Steven Pienaar. South Africa will also have to do without Kaizer Chiefs' Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Crystal Palace's Kagisho Dikgacoi and Leeds United's Davide Somma, who are all injured.
South Africa can seal their spot in the tournament with victory in Niamey and Mosimane wants his men to be ready for the big occasion. "Preparations have to be spot on, and we have to sacrifice some training sessions because of the travel," Mosimane said. "At the same time, some players will have played three matches in seven days when they come to camp so we have be very careful with our training. We can't afford to over train them because we want them to peak on match day."