(By Bonny Apunyu)
Gabon was Wednesday chosen by Confederation of African Football's executive committee to host the 2017 African Cup of Nation, just 3 years after it co-hosted Africa’s most popular football tournament.
Sources say Algeria and Ghana lost bids to Gabon in a vote by the Confederation of African Football's executive committee in Cairo, Egypt. Gabon co-hosted 2012 AFCON with neighbor Equatorial Guinea, which stood in at short notice to host this year's tournament in January and February after Morocco was removed because of a dispute over Ebola.
Gabon now also gets to put on the 16-team African soccer championship on its own because Libya withdrew from 2017 duties citing security concerns.Gabons capital Libreville and the eastern city of Franceville — hosted games in Gabon's shared 2012 tournament but according to sources, for 2017 Gabon will need another two stadiums to meet the minimum criteria of four, and says it is planning to have stadiums ready in Port-Gentil and the northern town of Oyem by the middle of next year.
Meanwhile Libya was initially scheduled to host back in 2013 but swapped with South Africa in the hope that it would be ready by 2017. It conceded last August that it wouldn't be, with ongoing violence following the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Reuters says Gabon's selection means five straight African Cups will be in Central or West Africa, with the three after 2017 already decided. Cameroon will host in 2019, Ivory Coast in 2021 and Guinea in 2023. Accordingly to reports, Algerian bid's failure will also revive talk of an anti-North African bias within Africa's top soccer body, which has been led by Cameroon's Issa Hayatou since 1988 (Reuters)