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Winning AFCON hosting rights is no cakewalk


Only two countries from the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) region have been able to host the African Cup of Nations. However, Sudan staging the first edition in 1957 and later in 1970 while Ethiopia hosted in 1962, 1968, and 1976 all happened in the era of simplicity and few teams. Eight countries featured in the 1976 edition in Ethiopia.

Kenya won the rights to host the 1996 edition which was shrouded in cheap multiparty politics and the rights were given to South Africa. Kenya again won the 2018 Africa Nations Championship finals, the AFCON for players based in Africa and again failed to meet the set-out pre-conditions and CAF moved the tournament to Morocco. This led to doubts over whether Kenya will get the 2027 rights, before, together with Uganda and Tanzania, the floated the “Pamoja bid” emerging victors. 

CAF requires a hosting country for AFCON to prepare six stadiums, which makes it two for each country in 2027. Two of them must be in Category Four, which can hold 40,000 or more fans. According to CAF rules Category Four holds a minimum of 30,000 fans. The other four stadiums are in Category Three with a maximum of 30,000 fans. Two of them should be able to hold between 20,000 and 30,000 fans, and two others that can hold at least 15,000 fans.

So far, each country has one certified or near certified Category Four stadium, Moi International in Kenya, Benjamin Mukapa in Tanzania and Nelson Mandela in Nambole, Kampala. This makes it easier for each country to make ready one more stadium in Category Three which are there but may not meet the standards as they are. Uganda has Nakivubo Stadium in downtown Kampala that has been under renovation. Tanzania has CCM Kirumba in Mwanza while Kenya has Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.

Kenya might be forced to complete Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, and Uganda might also upgrade another stadium if CAF insists on the second stadium being in a different town. This is what ruled Kenya out of the 1996 hosting as the government failed to upgrade Mombasa Municipal Stadium in good time. All the countries will have to upgrade three pitches to training grounds standards around each stadium.

 According to CAF, match venues of a hosting country or joint hosts should be near an international airport, level-five hospital and a five-star hotel. This means that only three other cities in Kenya apart from Nairobi can host AFCON matches due to the airport requirement – Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa. Kakamega can get a reprieve due to close proximity of fifty-five kilometres from Kisumu. All the cities have good hospitals and hotels.

Furthermore, at least three training grounds near match venues that meet CAF set standards must be available. Training grounds are not required to have terraces which allows for good pitches in educational institutions or private clubs to pass. However, they must have floodlights and at least one changing room with twenty-three seats. The showers and urinals must also be in very good working conditions. They must also have movable goal posts and at least twenty seats for the technical bench.

Among other detailed requirements, all stadiums must install turnstiles - revolving horizontal arms fixed to a vertical post at all gates as well as CCTV monitors. The VIP seats must be padded and their area well demarcated and restricted. There must also be a media centre, media tribune, and a press conference room that can host fifty media personnel. There is also a mixed zone for photographers’, OB van area and a VAR operation room.

Floodlights are critical for players’ vision and good-quality TV coverage. The floodlight should be designed to avoid glare for players and minimise shadows as much as possible. In order to ensure that the match can proceed in the event of a power failure, a backup power supply must be available to avoid interruptions of matches. The last time a report came out on Nyayo Stadium, the floodlights were not working.

Team changing rooms must have cold and hot water, massage tables, a fridge and ice bath. The ice bath can be permanent or temporary. The Ambulances must be equipped with Oxygen masks, defibrillator, I/V Drip Sets, Emergency Medications and trained Medical Staff. First aid and medical rooms should have all the necessary equipment found at the Emergency and Accidents department of a hospital including cardiac monitor. Medical attention is provided by the host and participating teams do not pay.

Hosting a continental sports showpiece is expensive. Nevertheless, it offers a chance for infrastructure development, especially in auxiliary cities.

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