South Africa has hosted the Africa Cup Of Nations twice since readmission into international sports, in 1996, and 2013. On both occasions, it was on a 9-1-1 basis where the original host country could not host for various reasons. CAF has always had a place of refuge in SAFA and felt they can always count on South Africa to step in should the need arise.
That of course is not a problem as we have had the facilities and as one of the more developed countries on the continent, coupled with the love for sports in the country meant we were more than capable of hosting all those people coming to watch the games. This was all fine until the latest stunt by CAF to ask South Africa for a favour yet again because the 2015 hosts of the event Morocco, have asked for a postponement of the tournament amid fears that the deadly Ebola pandemic would be at its most rife in the traditional months of January and February. This was at the advice of the World Health Organisation, and the Moroccan officials felt it would be unsafe for not only their country, but also all the other people coming to enjoy the spectacle.
The governing body then rejected this proposal, citing commercial obligations as the reason why the tournament should go ahead as planned. Now I get where Morocco is coming from and they should be commended for this. With this virus so fatal it should be treated with the seriousness it requires.
What I do not understand though, is why we are even considering it. The president of the South African Football Association, Dr Danny Jordaan, called a press conference on Friday to “settle this matter once and for all”. This you would think, was in an attempt to squash the idea and put people’s minds at ease and let them know that there is no way this is going to happen.
But I was shocked when I learnt that the Association had the emergency committee (EmCo) sit and deliberate on this, and discuss if we should host. Then, in the press conference itself, Jordaan said there is nothing to say on the matter since SAFA had not been asked to host, leaving room for discussion should a formal request come their way. Meanwhile, we all know that CAF has asked SAFA to be on the list of those on standby should Morocco insist on a postponement, in a meeting to be held on the 3rd of November.
What the president should have done is rubbish those suggestions altogether and not make us think that there is still a possibility. The question then begs, if Morocco doesn’t want it because of this Ebola virus, why do we want the Ebola virus? It is just ridiculous that we would want to host a tournament that is two months away.
If we do come to CAF’s rescue again, it would just be disrespectful to the structures that we have, not only in football, but also in terms of our government. As the minister of sports Fikile Mbalula so often puts it, we are not running a banana republic. He has distanced himself from this, releasing a statement saying that SAFA has not approached him about this, and even if they do, it would just be a bridge too far with the budget constraints taken into account.
He is absolutely right. There will not even be enough time to get corporate SA to buy into the idea, meaning the tax payer would have to fork out the money. In one interview on tv, he said, “We are too deep into the financial year”.
Ebola is a threat as it is and the health ministry is working hard to make sure we’re all safe. Let’s not invite trouble for ourselves. SAFA should just let other countries get the emergency gig for once, and let CAF know that we are not their weekend special.