Sam Wallace: Why did Africa award the Cup to a country so inadequate to host it?

There were nine months left in the bidding process but Angola were suddenly chosen as hosts
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The Independent Online

It was not as if the African Nations Cup was every English club manager's favourite competition, even before Friday. If you had put it to a vote, the selfish types among the 20 Premier League bosses would have got rid of it long ago, or at the very least they would have moved it to the northern hemisphere summer time.

So after the events of Friday when the Togo team bus was shot at in Angola it is not hard to imagine the attitude come January 2012, when African players are, once again, called up to represent their countries. Suddenly, every Premier League manager will be an expert on African politics. The memories of Angola 2010 will be invoked. Clubs will question whether they can allow their African players to go.

What happened on Friday in Angola – the death of the bus driver, press officer and coach – was appalling. Clearly it was a mistake to think the tournament should have been played in Angola, let alone the Cabinda province. But that should not be an excuse for European clubs finally to take their chance and prevent their African players from going to future African Nations Cup competitions.

To condemn the whole of African football on the basis of one incident in Angola would be the easy option. European football loves the African footballer – especially when they come so cheap – and now it has to do right by African football. It is wrong to regard Friday's attack as Africa's problem. It is Angola's problem. Africa's problem is how it ended up awarding the tournament to a nation so patently inadequate to host it.

Looking back to September 2006 when Angola was awarded the tournament by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) it is hard not to think that something was awry. At the time, the decision was of little interest outside Africa. Perhaps it was for that reason the bizarre choice of Angola attracted little scrutiny – although if a similar process had been adopted for awarding a World Cup finals or European Championship there would have been uproar.

Having seen presentations from the four bidding nations, CAF was scheduled to allow another nine months for the bidding process to develop. Instead, it made its decision immediately and awarded the competition to Angola. To two of the losing bidders, Equatorial Guinea/Gabon and Libya, it awarded the 2012 and 2014 competitions respectively although effectively none of those nations had even bid for them.

Imagine if, at the World Cup draw in Cape Town last month, Fifa had decided there and then to award the 2018 and 2022 tournaments without waiting for the final 12 months of campaigning by the bidding nations. To say that would have been controversial would not really have done it justice.

As well as dishing out the three tournaments in one go in September 2006, CAF also had to placate the fourth bidding nation, Nigeria, which was the country with comfortably the most suitable infrastructure to host the tournament. By way of compensation, Nigeria got the Fifa Under-17 Championship for 2009, which was staged successfully in October and November.

By any standards it was a very questionable way of dividing up the spoils of African football. Come Friday, CAF's committee room decision made three years earlier came back to bite it.

Angola was given the African Nations Cup because CAF's policy was that hosting major tournaments would encourage less developed nations to bring their facilities up to scratch. That was a fanciful notion. Having been through a war in which 1.5 million people died and with 40 per cent of the population below the poverty line, Angola should have bigger priorities than football tournaments.

From what can be pieced together, it seems that Angola was awarded the 2010 African Nations Cup because it was politically expedient to do so. Factors such as whether it was safe to stage a tournament there, or whether the facilities were up to scratch do not seem to have been a primary concern for those in CAF who made the decision.

With three people dead and the whole legitimacy of the competition now up for debate, to describe that as an oversight is rather understating it.

Where does it leave African football and the African Nations Cup? To compare Angola's situation with that of South Africa and by extension the World Cup finals next summer is frankly laughable. To judge Cabinda on the same terms as Cape Town, 2,000 miles away, is like assessing the safety of London based on a trip to New York.

Danny Jordaan, the chief executive of the 2010 World Cup, who was quick out of the blocks yesterday to defend South Africa should nonetheless cast his mind back to September. Then, Jordaan, who sits on CAF's African Nations committee, said that Angola's readiness to host the competition was under scrutiny. Nigeria was on standby, but CAF went ahead with its original plan.

Scrutiny will now focus on the next two tournaments: the joint-hosts Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in 2012 and Libya in 2014. Neither of them can be judged in relation to Angola because all three are very different nations. Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are oil-rich but, glancing at The CIA World Factbook, only Gabon is described as "prosperous and stable".

The African Nations Cup, an older tournament than the European Championship, should not allow itself to be undermined by European football just because of one appalling incident. There have been many successful tournaments in the past. The greatest threat to its existence comes from bad decisions in the committees to award it to countries that are simply not fit for the job.

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