East Africa must pick lessons from Ivory Coast Afcon

Ivory Coast players celebrate after reaching the 2023 Afcon final following a 1-0 win over DR Congo in the semi-finals on February 7, 2024. [Cafonline X]

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final goes down tomorrow in Abidjan, Ivory Coast after one month of action.

Some 24 teams started the battle for glory on January 13 and after the drama of group stage, round of 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals, only the hosts Ivory Coast and Nigeria are the last two teams standing.

One of them will lift the African crown tomorrow evening, after arguably one of the best-organised tournament. May the best team be African champions. This has been one of the best Afcon tournaments in the recent past.

The quality of football has been at a higher level and the quality of officiating and organisation were a notch higher.

The Local Organising Committee has shown that Africa can organise a successful event without the usual complaints of stadium quality, poor training facilities or even a chaotic transport system.

The only issues we heard in Ivory Coast were internal problems among individual teams after failing to do well on the pitch. On the field, the referees have shown that matches can be handled smoothly without controversy witnessed in past tournaments.

African referees have shown they are among the best in the world. The way they worked with the Video Assistant Referees (VAR) is superb.

Their handling of VAR has made many ask questions on why the so-called best leagues in the world such as English Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A can’t work well with the technology.

The success of the 2023 version now puts pressure on the next tournament hosts. Morocco will host the 2025 tournament and the 2027 edition will come home to East Africa. Will we match what Ivory Coast has delivered or even do better?

Morocco have one of the best facilities in Africa. The huge concern is the 2027 tournament to be hosted by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

2027 is not far and we still recall how the 1996 event was taken away from Kenya for not having enough facilities ready. How prepared are we for a successful event as East Africa?

We must pick lessons from Ivory Coast and start preparations now. Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba was in Ivory Coast for the semi-finals, and we hope he picked valuable and practical lessons on organising a successful tournament, not just take selfies with African legends.

Winning the rights to host the event was not enough, the tough job is putting together a successful event. Will East Africa be ready for the 2027 Afcon?

The stadiums, roads, railway and related infrastructure must be built to international standards. The cities must be ready to host the fans and players. Over to you, leaders of the three countries. It can be done with the right focus and dedication.