YAOUNDE - Cameroon's football (soccer) authorities say they are confident they can complete the infrastructure for hosting the postponed Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the continent's biggest football championship, in 2022. The contest was originally scheduled for next January but the Confederation of African Football on Tuesday postponed the event for a year because of the coronavirus.
Sports Minister Narcisse Mouelle Kombi says the postponement of the Africa Football Cup of Nations offers Cameroon the opportunity to prepare a memorable competition.
He says Cameroon will have time to quantitatively and qualitatively accelerate work on all sports, health, communication and road infrastructure in order to offer Africa a very successful continental football competition. He says Cameroon is going to perfect what it has already done to offer African youths a memorable AFCON.
On Tuesday the Confederation of Africa Football, CAF, announced that it had postponed the continental soccer event by a year.
The CAF said it was moving the competition to January 2022 due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic across the continent.
Cameroon last week said some key construction projects in the capital, Yaounde, and the seaside town of Douala had slowed due to COVID-19. It was the same situation in the northern town of Garoua, the western town of Bafoussam, and Limbe and Buea in the English-speaking South West Region.
Awah Fonka, governor of the West Region, says he now has more time to make sure all AFCON fields and roads are in place.
He says although construction work is almost complete on stadia in western Cameroon, only 40 percent of road infrastructure for the African Football Cup of Nations has been complete. He says he hopes that with the postponement of AFCON, companies will have more time to complete work that was either stopped or reduced due to COVID-19.
The postponement has been received with mixed reaction. Football fans say they are anxious to see their teams play. Anabel Singeh says she took a loan to build a restaurant near the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde that will host some matches.
She says it will not be easy for her to either repay the loan or pay interest.
"The postponement of the Africa Cup of Nations is not easy for the world of sports in general," she said. "Many people you know invested so much in the construction of hotels, of restaurants with the hope that they would regain this money by hosting the African Cup of Nations in January 2021. Imagine now, the interests are piling up and more so, the hotels, the restaurants will not be used for the purpose for which they were initially intended."
This was not the first time the CAF changed the tournament’s dates. It was originally scheduled for June and July 2021, but was moved forward to January due to Cameroon’s hot summer climate.
On Tuesday, the CAF also confirmed the African Nations Championship, the biennial tournament for home-based players, is being postponed by a year. It will also take place in Cameroon, in April 2021.