• Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

African football pays the price for neglect

Poor stadium facilities will force nearly half of the African countries that will host World Cup qualifiers over the next week to host their game at an alternative ground.

Ever since the Confederation of African Football (CAF) decided to take a firm line on poor stadium facilities two years ago, countries have been slow to improve their grounds. Some haven’t even moved at all.

They are now being punished, as CAF has forced them to play their home games in a different country.

17 of the 43 countries which have a home game scheduled in qualification for the 2026 World Cup between Wednesday and next Tuesday will be forced to do so due to the poor condition of their stadium.

This includes Kenya, one of the three countries designated to co-host the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2027, and Benin, whose stadium in Cotonou is in disrepair less than two years after a major renovation, as well as Namibia.

Morocco to the rescue

Morocco, a country that did exceptionally well during the last FIFA World Cup in Qatar, is using its football infrastructure to woo other countries.

Its occupation of the Western Sahara has been a bone of contention for a long time.

However, as the country has already started preparing itself for the 2030 FIFA World Cup that it will co-host with Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, it is now using these facilities to improve its relationship with some African countries.

Aside from its own World Cup qualifier against Zambia, a further eight matches will be hosted over the next week in the North African country.

Some light at the end of the tunnel

Some countries have started improving their grounds. South Sudan has even built a new stadium in Juba. Also, several initiatives have been deployed to further improve the level of groundsmanship, including a maintenance course hosted by FIFA last year.

Guy Oldenkotte

Guy Oldenkotte is senior editor of sportsfields.info and has been covering the outdoor sportssurfaces market and industry since 2003

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