August 21 – Cameroon’s bid to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations appears to be hanging by a thread after an inspection visit to the country scheduled for this week was suddenly called off.
A team of experts appointed by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) was due to begin the eight-day visit on Sunday to ascertain whether Cameroon can cope with an additional eight more finalists under the tournament’s new 24-team structure.
But CAF confirmed the visit would now have to take place at a later date following the withdrawal of audit firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) whose members were due to accompany the delegation. No reason was given though it appeared to be all about security fears despite Cameroon Football Federation president Tombi A Roko Sidiki ensuring the safety of the inspectors.
“We observed that there was a huge rumour circulating today [Sunday], indicating that the security of the members of the audit firm selected for the first inspection mission from August 20 to 28 in relation to the organisation of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, was at stake,” said Sidiki in a letter to CAF, according to the BBC.
He went on to reassure both PWC and CAF members that the Cameroon 2019 organising committee “have taken all necessary measures to ensure their safety” during their stay.
The unexpected move is being widely interpreted as a further blow to Cameroon’s chances of staging the tournament for the first time since 1972. They are due to learn on September 23 whether they can go ahead which means that in theory a replacement technical inspection will have to take place within the next month.
Cameroon officials are understandably dismayed at recent comments by CAF president Ahmad Ahmad which appeared to question the country’s ability to host a 24-team finals before the inspection team had even set foot in the country. If Cameroon’s candidacy is ruled out, a new bid process would probably be launched in the autumn with Morocco the likely favourites to step in.