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Safa CEO: In the politics of football, anything is possible

The Confederation of African Football selected Egypt as hosts of Afcon after their Executive meeting in Dakar, Senegal on Tuesday morning.

Safa acting CEO Russell Paul. Picture: Safa

CAPE TOWN - In the aftermath of Egypt’s landslide 16-1 victory to win the rights to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), acting South African Football Association (Safa) CEO Russell Paul had a vague, ambiguous and loaded soundbite for EWN Sport.

“In the politics of football, anything is possible.”

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) selected Egypt as hosts of Afcon after their Executive meeting in Dakar, Senegal on Tuesday morning.

South Africa and Egypt were the only two nations to submit bids for the tournament which is five months away. The late bids came after Cameroon was stripped of the hosting rights because of unpreparedness.

Paul suggests Egypt did not win the bid based purely on considerations around facilities and infrastructure.

“What is surprising is that back in 2010 when FIFA did a World Cup bid analysis, South Africa was number one and Egypt was last. Fundamentally nothing has changed.”

“Since then, South Africa has hosted Africa Cup of Nations again (2013), and we hosted other activities. So, if anything our facilities have continued to improve.”

It’s understood South Africa’s strained diplomatic relations with Morocco and its failure to vote for the North African nation in last year’s World Cup vote does not sit well with CAF and could’ve played a role.

The decision has also fuelled rumours of a rivalry between incumbent CAF president Ahmad and Safa president Danny Jordaan.

The 16-1 Executive Committee vote suggests South Africa were never in the running to begin as suggested by North African media outlets long before the vote on Tuesday.

“There has been a lot of talk that Egypt has the upper hand. On what basis? it's very difficult to understand.”

“On the pure mechanics, pure logistics and the pure operational stuff, without being arrogant but there are very few, if any country on this continent to beat South Africa with regards to its proven track record of hosting major Internationals events.”

This might be blessing in disguise for the cash strapped Safa, they lost R18 million in the last financial year and would require at least R120 million to pull off the event.

Other factors are the looming general election in South Africa, plus Safa did not get financial guarantees from national government. A reason could be that CAF allegedly did not respond to the South African governments’ pertinent questions regarding the possibility of hosting the tournament.

Paul did stress that Safa will move on from this, there was not any significant cost attached to the bid.

“Every cloud has a silver lining and I think we need to push forward and continue with our work as football. We saw the bid as and the opportunity to host Afcon and a good way to once again unite football lovers in this country and to give them something to talk about, to scream about and to enjoy in a time of challenging economics.”

Paul indicated Safa’s next goal in terms of hosting a major tournament.

“I mean we made it very clear that one of the main priorities is to bring the Women's World Cup to South Africa, and that's the way that we could we focus our attention.”

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