We can make Afcon 2027 an EAC affair

Author: Simon J. Mone. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

We need not fall into that situation, and hopefully, our Ministers of Finance can convince the two big men and one woman in the state houses to pay up ahead of the deadline.

The East African Community (EAC) has never hosted a football show as big as the African Cup of Nations (Afcon). Since the first edition of Afcon, east Africa could only see it from afar.  We have seen our west and northern African brothers dominate hosting the event, while the east and the south are largely spectators on television. Football fans from the east and south would only hope that one day in the EAC, we will grab our chance to stage this event.

Finally, God has pulled the ears of the big guys at the Confederation of African Football (CAF). CAF had been looking for a new host for the Afcon 2025 and selected another west African nation, whose name is Guinea, who threw away a glorious hosting opportunity. So, they got Morocco, another usual suspect.

For the 2027 tournament, CAF decided that Swahili nations Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda will have the chance to play host to Africa’s biggest football show. Have we asked for more than our hands can hold? Yes! We have. We need to prepare. The Swahili nations need to pay some commitment fee by a given deadline.

So, yes, I fear we could have asked for something huge. You know what it means to look for money and pay, especially in our part of the world, where finance ministers release money through their noses. Preparations should have started already to ready us to host the events. The good thing is that there is still a fair bit of time available to put in place all the things that are required to be ready.  CAF requires a minimum of six stadia, two of which must hold at least 60,000 watchers. The rest should be capable of accommodating big numbers as well. Also, states must have proper accommodation facilities that can house the multitudes of visitors.

So, CAF needs intending hosts to comply with this checklist. We see that the Swahili states meet the requirements for the stadium capacity. They can make improvements to the facilities comfortably within the time left.  However, my heart beats quite fast that the hosting countries must remit some $90m to CAF as a commitment to be the host and to avoid the inconvenience of late changes. We saw Cameroon losing hosting privileges for the 2019 edition and Guinea losing it for the 2025 event.

We need not fall into that situation, and hopefully, our Ministers of Finance can convince the two big men and one woman in the state houses to pay up ahead of the deadline. That will allow us to get preparations for 2027 started, knowing that twenty-four (24) countries will participate in the EAC-staged tournament. We must prepare to exploit the opportunities. Our hospitality industry must adjust properly to gain from the visitors.

So, hotels, tours, and travel companies, and local restaurants must organize their businesses well. Transporters need to be ready for the long journeys across the EAC. To carry supporters between Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and the other EAC states for matches. Food producers and sellers will also benefit if they ensure that the quality of their products meets those prescribed standards. The fabrics and trumpets industry all have an opportunity.

To do this, the planning and preparation should have started already.  In all these, the biggest win for us would be to have all three places for grabs at the tournament remain within the Swahili nations.

With the Cranes getting Gold, Harambee Stars getting Silver, and Taifa Stars getting bronze. It will be a truly EAC affair.