YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Soccer fans in Cameroon voiced disappointment after the government announced Monday it would not host the finals of the 2020 African Champions League in September. The government cites the risk posed by COVID-19. Some fans say they understand, while others question if the infection is the real reason.
Mbombo Njoya, president of Cameroon’s Football Association FECAFOOT, says a recent spike in COVID-19 made the government decide not to host the continental event. The disease is caused by the coronavirus.
"I have informed CAF that the government has not accepted to host the semi-final and the final of the Champions League because of the evolution of the pandemic of COVID-19," Njoya said. "I have to recognize that it is a very reasonable decision that the government has taken. I approve it 100 percent because health is something which matters and you don't play with that."
Authorities in Cameroon have recorded more than 16,000 cases of the disease which has killed at least 371 people.
Cameroon-based Africa sports analyst Geoff Ngwa says the decision will stop the spread of the coronavirus among football players, supporters and the millions of fans who would want to be present.
"Everything is uncertain when it comes to games with spectators, which means there is a risk and I think Cameroon measured the risk with the pandemic," Ngwa said. "So, Cameroon cannot be sanctioned, especially when the arguments are against a pandemic like COVID-19."
The Champions League semifinals will see two Egyptian teams, Al Ahly and Zamalek, take on Moroccan counterparts Wydad Casablanca, and Raja.
In May, the Confederation of African Football said the games would be played at the recently constructed 50,000-seat Japoma stadium in the Cameroonian seaside town of Douala. The CAR noted the stadium needed some finishing touches.
On June 30, a CAF executive meeting rescheduled Africa's most prestigious final for September. Now it is not clear when and where the games will be held.
Football Fan Henri Eto says Cameroon has deprived its youths from watching one of the best soccer events in the continent.
He says Cameroon has not completed infrastructure on the stadium to host the finals of the African Champions League and is now hiding behind the coronavirus to stop the competition. He says the government should have taken into consideration the wishes of a majority of Cameroonians who want to see the continent resume its soccer as is the case in Europe.
Analysts say the Confederation of African Football may turn to Morocco or Tunisia to host the competition, but that it may not be an easy decision considering the ravages of COVID-19.