Cameroon’s hosting of the Cup of Nations is an irreversible achievement

“We are the champions,” says Cameroon’s sports minister Narcisse Mouele Kombi as he approaches the primary venue for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, flanked by media, at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde. With the 24-team tournament due to begin on January 9, the administration is stressing that the central African country is ready to host the biannual showcase of African football. “Cameroon is prepared to host the CAN (Cup of Nations),” Mouele Kombi told AFP, adding that the organisation of the tournament was “an irrevocable success.”

Credits: AFP

Former Cameroon star Geremi Njitap, now head of the country’s footballers’ association, sees the tournament as a “wonderful opportunity for African football to restore a high level.”

“Local championships must be developed, and this begins with infrastructural development. The players must be well compensated “According to AFP, he said.

“The CAN is going to be completed. There are no longer any concerns. But how much would it cost? “, Dimitri Mebenga, the daily newspaper Mutations’ head of sport, inquires.

“This tournament would have been a financial disaster for the country, causing the Cameroonian taxpayer to suffer, all in complete secrecy.”

Cameroon had been chosen as the 2019 hosts, however due to a delay in preparations, Egypt was forced to step in at the last minute to host the event.

Cameroon was given a second chance and had to modify the dates for the 2021 edition, which would now be held a year later.

The first modification was made because to concerns that severe seasonal rains would disrupt the tight 52-match schedule, and the coronavirus epidemic forced a second delay.

Security concerns

The prestigious African football competition will now go off late on January 9 in the afternoon at the Olembe Stadium and end on February 6 with the final at the same site.

Following construction delays, the Olembe Stadium in the Cameroonian capital now has 60,000 seats and a surface that is now green.

However, security worries exist as Cameroon prepares to host the Cup of Nations for the first time since 1972, when it was just an eight-team competition.

Boko Haram extremists have started attacks in the north, while the army and separatists have clashed in the southwest’s two English-speaking areas.

Cameroon hosted the African Nations Championship (CHAN) earlier this year, a championship for African players playing in their home countries, but infrastructural backlogs remain a source of contention.

The media and pundits are unsure if the country will be ready for the January 9 start date, with Cameroon set to play in the opener match against opponents to be determined following the draw in Yaounde on Tuesday.

A swimming pool, a gymnasium, and tennis courts were originally planned for the Olembe Stadium, but only the stadium appears to be on track to be built.

An Italian firm that had been working on the project since 2015 was replaced by a Canadian firm towards the end of 2019.

The venue’s outside ring is adorned with red, blue, green, orange, and yellow panels that represent the scales of a pangolin, a tiny animal beloved by Cameroonians.

According to the officials, the entire cost of the Olembe project is 163 billion CFA francs ($290 million/250 million euros).

Hotels in Garoua and Bafoussam, as well as roadways in Douala, the country’s commercial centre, are among the projects to be finished.

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