And the winner is…Gabon!
We finally know where the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be held. Gabon is replacing Libya, originally awarded the tournament before ongoing war meant the rights had to be rescinded. Only Algeria, Gabon and Ghana entered acceptable bids the second time around.
Remember all the fuss over AFCON 2015? Morocco dropped the ball, so to speak, freaking out about the possibility of the Ebola virus crossing its borders and declining to host the tournament. The event was moved to Equatorial Guinea, which used its wealth to scramble to update stadiums, but some of the basic resources (hot water in the players’ hotels, for instance) went missing.
So the Confederation of African Football (CAF) wants to avoid such a mess happening at the next AFCON. Can Gabon rise to the challenge? Well, the country did co-host back in 2012, alongside Equatorial Guinea. Libreville, with a fancy new stadium that seats 40,000, hosted the final, while other games were played in Franceville, with a stadium that holds 35,000. Port Gentil and Oyem, both with 20,000 capacity stadiums to be ready by 2016, round out the list.
Perhaps CAF is confident in its choice because it’s been such a short time since Gabon’s needed to deal with the hassle of hosting a major tournament. Sure, the country has to go it alone this time, but it’s got a longer lead-time than Equatorial Guinea did, and the economy’s in pretty good shape.
As for the Gabon national team, the Panthers couldn’t make it out of the group stage in 2015, but back in 2012, it made it all the way to the quarter-finals. The Panthers will be hoping the chance to host will once again give the side a boost.