Morocco and South Africa named hosts of ACN 2015 and 2017
Morocco’s “architectural jewel” – Stade de Marrakech
After competing against South Africa for the 3rd time in the last decade to host an international tournament, Morocco finally came out on top. The North African country, who competed against South Africa to host both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, was selected by the Confederation of African Football to host the 2015 edition of the African Cup of Nations. South Africa, who were also in the running to host the 2015 tournament, were named hosts for the 2017 ACN.
Despite wanting to host the earlier edition of the tournament, South Africa could hardly complain about receiving their second choice…
We would have liked to host the 2015 edition. We made a presentation that we have the infrastructure ready as well as all the volunteers that worked during the Fifa World Cup to call on a short notice, but like we say, we welcome the decision as there was no losers.
And while a few criticized South Africa for riding the “coattails” of its recent success as World Cup host, it is hard to argue with a candidate that has both a ready-made infrastructure in place as well as a demonstrated history of experience hosting the biggest tournament in the world. Well, unless of course you sit on the FIFA Executive Council….
The African Confederation seems to have found a win-win solution that eluded FIFA’s World Cup voting council – though the smaller pool of candidates vying to host the tournament certainly helped broker a solution that pleased everyone. Pot shots at FIFA aside, Morocco’s bid requires much work to be accomplished to successfully deliver on the promises it made in its proposal. South Africa would have been a “safer” choice…but also a less exciting one. Fans who shelled out money to attend last summer’s World Cup are probably more likely to justify spending money to travel to another site rather than the same country in a short 5-year period. 2010 was the year of South Africa. They had their chance to shine…now it is time for someone to get a shot at the lime light. South Africa’s preparedness made them an excellent candidate to host the 2015 tournament….but it makes them an even better back-up should something go awry in Morocco.
Morocco hasn’t hosted an international tournament since 1988…despite several attempts to persuade FIFA otherwise. Their proposal may not be as flashy as some of the recent bids to host tournaments. There is no promise to build air-conditioned stadiums a la Qatar. Some might even argue that their stadiums may not be as impressive as the ones South Africa built for the 2010 World Cup. Yet despite the relative lack of bling – Morocco provided a strong case with realistic goals and targets that indicate they have the capacity and infrastructure to host a successful tournament.
Among those goals was the improvement and expansion of the country’s stadiums. There are plans to build (at least) four new stadiums to rival the size of those found in Europe. The first of those new stadiums, Stade de Marrakech, has been referred to as a “jewel of architecture heritage.” The stadium is already complete and was broken-in with friendlies against PSG (video here) and Lyon (video here) in January. In addition to the other stadiums scheduled to be built by 2015, the Moroccan delegation’s proposal also emphasized security. While the question of security is always relevant in choosing tournament hosts – it was inevitable that this subject would receive more scrutiny in the wake of the tragic attack on the Togolese bus at the 2010 tournament.
The choice of Morocco for 2015 also signals a step away from the Confederation’s history of alternating between host countries in the North and South. The choice to award Morocco the 2015 tournament after Libya hosts in 2013 means that North Africa will back-to-back editions of the tournament. Of course, one could argue that the entire 2013 tournament is an anomaly given its accelerated scheduling and qualification scheme. The 2012 tournament will take place in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
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