By owolabi Abiola/First Zeal media cast
South Africa has formally bid to replace Cameroon as hosts of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, a senior football official told AFP Thursday.
“We have submitted our bid documents,” South African Football Association spokesman Dominic Chimhavi said in reply to emailed questions from AFP. “(It) is now up to CAF to decide (who hosts the 2019 Cup of Nations).”
Earlier Thursday, Egypt said it was willing to stage the biennial African football showpiece after Morocco surprisingly announced it would not bid. Morocco had been strong a media favourite to host the tournament for the first time since 1988.
Last week, Cameroon was stripped of the right to stage the tournament with African football body CAF citing behind- schedule preparations and security concerns.
The deadline for bids is 2200GMT Friday with a decision on who replaces Cameroon to be made in Senegal on January 9.
South Africa last week “expressed an interest” in staging the Cup of Nations for the second time in six years, but stopped short of formally applying to be hosts.
If South Africa is chosen, it will be third time it has replaced another country as hosts of a tournament first staged in Sudan 61 years ago. It took over from Kenya in 1996, going on to win the tournament just four years after returning to international football from apartheid-induced isolation.
Post Moamer Kadhafi-era violence prevented Libya hosting the 2013 edition and South Africa stepped in three years after becoming the first African country to stage the World Cup.
Record seven-time champions Egypt were hosts in 1959, 1974, 1986 and 2006 and won three of those four tournaments.
The 2019 Cup of Nations will be the first to feature 24 teams, up from 16 in Gabon last year when Cameroon were surprise winners. There will also be a change of dates with the tournament moving from January/February to June/July to avoid club-versus-country clashes.
Cameroon won in 2017 despite a number of stars, including Liverpool defender Joel Matip, opting to stay with their clubs in the middle of the season.