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Hosting Afcon 2019 aligns with Ramaphosa's call for investment, says Safa's Paul

CAF will announce the winner of the right to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after its executive committee meeting on Tuesday morning.

Africa Cup of Nations 2017 winners Cameroon. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Despite no official support or guarantee from national government regarding the hosting of the African Cup of Nations 2019, acting South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Russell Paul says that hosting the African showpiece associates with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s goal of boosting foreign investment in South Africa.

“Our call is the fact that we saw this as a big opportunity to align with President (Cyril) Ramaphosa’s call for greater foreign investment into this country.”

“There's no other sport, other than football, that is positioned to offer that from a sporting perspective and couple that with the commercial opportunities that may present itself.”

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) rescheduled its critical executive meeting from Wednesday to Tuesday morning in Dakar, Senegal. The decision on hosting rights for Afcon 2019 is right at the top of the agenda, according to an official CAF press release.

Following the decision to strip the hosting rights from Cameroon because of delays in infrastructure and security concerns, Egypt and South Africa bid to step in as late hosts for the showpiece event of African football.

Although official government guarantees remain absent, Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa has been quoted positively on the matter of possibly hosting the competition at such short notice.

“We are indeed interested in taking over the hosting of the Afcon. We have all the infrastructure and stadiums to host this kind of event like we did in 2010 with the FIFA World Cup.”

“It’s up to CAF to approach us but as far as we are concerned we are ready to take over from Cameroon.”

The word of Minster Xasa was enough for Safa to push on with their bid to host the tournament despite the absence of a financial guarantee from national government.

The lack of financial guarantees does not bother Paul, instead, he is confident the potential incentives of hosting a major continental tournament will please the governments and serve their diplomatic interests.

“There is nobody (sport) that plays for literally 300 days of the year on this continent with other African brothers and teams.”

“So we (Safa) saw this as an opportunity to further enhance that call by the president to bring in investment into this country, and how better to do that than to have more than half of the continent bringing their teams here.

“And depending upon the progress of where those teams end up, you will get business people, you will get government officials coming back into this country to see what's available.”

This year's tournament is unique because it has been expanded to 24 nations and moved from the usual January window to June.

Paul hopes the tournament increase in numbers has the potential to help South Africa with diplomatic and economic relations.

“(The tournament) provides an opportunity for government to strengthen its position on calling for greater investment.”

“And it's not just investment that you're looking for within the country, but it's a trade with other African countries, we need to be able to trade better with our African brothers.”

Another unique feature of hosting Afcon according to Paul is the belief that football’s capital on the African continent cannot be matched by any other sport.

“Without sounding arrogant, there is no other sport within this country that has got a stronger African connection then we (football) have.”

“Rugby doesn't play on the African continent. It's got the odd game, where the (Spring)Boks will play against Zimbabwe or Namibia. The same with cricket.”

The last time South Africa hosted the competition was in 2013 after stepping in when original host Libya was embroiled in civil war.

Egypt last hosted the Afcon in 2006, they’ve hosted on four occasions in total compared to South Africa’s two.

The respective bids have been assessed by an independent French company and CAF will announce the winner after its executive committee meeting on Tuesday morning.

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)