ZAMBIA presented its final bid yesterday during the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) general assembly ahead of voting today to decide which country hosts the 2019 and 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya and his vice Boniface Mwamelo presented the bid and Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Susan Sikaneta gave Government’s assurance ahead of the announcement to be made at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa at around 17:00 hoursZambian time.
Kalusha, who outlined 10 points as to why Zambia should be given the bid, said the country had the best infrastructure to host the continental showpiece.
Zambia is facing competition to host the 2019 AFCON from Algeria, Cameroon, Guinea and Ivory Coast while the battle for the 2021 AFCON hosting is between Algeria, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
Each country was given 30 minutes to make their presentation in which Kalusha said Zambia was a place of peace where 73 tribes stay in harmony and that the country offers a glorious climate.
Kalusha said the country had a rich footballing history coupled with friendly people where visitors always feel at home adding that Zambia was the melting point of music.
“Zambia has fantastic stadium in the Levy Mwanawasa and Heroes National Stadium and we enjoy good support from Government which would be key in hosting this event,” he told the gathering.
Sikaneta told the meeting that she had been authorised by the Zambian Government to assure CAF that it was fully behind the bid and its unwavering support to the hosting of the event.
“The support the Zambian government is contained in numerous letters of commitment and Government guarantees from various ministries mentioned in the bid file that was delivered to you in November 2013 and reaffirmed by the inspection team that visited our country in August 2014,” she said.
Sikaneta said the Zambian government believes that the legacy created from hosting such competitions will entrench football development among a growing youthful population.
“We are committed to an extensive modern infrastructure development plan which sport and especially football is the cornerstone. The Zambian economy is rapidly growing and sound policies underpin this growth,” she said.
Meanwhile, SuperSport reports that matches to be played against a backdrop of the spectacular Victoria Falls waterfall is part of the package Zambia is offering to stage the AFCON.
Zambia proposed six venues including Livingstone, a town that overlooks the Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone in the mid-19th century is believed to have been the first European to see the falls on the Zambezi river, which divides Zambia and Zimbabwe.
A ground beside the Victoria Falls would challenge Cape Town Stadium, a 2010 World Cup venue lying in the shadow of Table Mountain, as the African football venue with the most spectacular backdrop.
Another boost for the Zambian bid was the recent opening of a Chinese-built 50 000-seat Heroes National Stadium in the capital, Lusaka.
Zambia have proposed six venues for a tournament needing a minimum of four, Cameroon five and Algeria, Guinea and Ivory Coast four each.
The CAF executive committee led by president Issa Hayatou from Cameroon will today vote to decide the two hosts while each of the 14 members, who include Kalusha, has one vote and the first country to receive at least eight votes wins.
Should several rounds be necessary, the country with the fewest votes after each round drops out.
Zambia was awarded the 1988 tournament only to be replaced by Morocco because they lacked the required funds. Guinea has never hosted the AFCON, a competition first staged 57 years ago in Sudanese capital Khartoum.
The Algerian bid seems among the strongest, but will not be helped by the death of Cameroonian striker Albert Ebosse after a match in the North African state.
Ebosse died last month having being struck by a piece of slate allegedly flung by supporter of the club he played for, former African champions JS Kabylie.
Guinea, one of the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola virus that has claimed 2 600 west African lives, must worry that the epidemic could negatively affect their bid.
A five-man inspection team led by senior executive committee member Amadou Diakite from Mali spent several days in each of the five countries this year.
Among the facilities under the CAF microscope were stadiums, training grounds, hotels, hospitals and media centres, plus road, rail and air links.
The Cup of Nations has been spread around the continent lately with southern, central, western and northern countries among the previous five hosts.
Ethiopia were the last east African hosts in 1976 with cash-strapped Kenya withdrawing as 1996 hosts and South Africa taking over.
Kenya, Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana and Mali are reportedly interested in replacing strife-torn Libya as the 2017 hosts ahead of a September 30 deadline for bids.
Ironically, the 2017 Cup of Nations hosts will be named only next year, long after the 2019 and 2021 are known.
Times of Zambia