On 8 January 2019, the Executive Committee of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) overwhelmingly voted for Egypt to beat off competition from South Africa as the new host of the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Dakar following a decision to strip off the hosting right from Cameroon.
The decision to take the tournament away from Cameroon was concluded over a month ago with the reason that, “a number of compliance conditions have not been met”, and CAF did not want to expose the Africa Cup of Nations to, “any issues that could impact on the success of the most prestigious African competition”.
This decision gave the Black Stars a headache following their poor performance in their last visit to the North African country for a major tournament in 2006 and their quest to end their 39years trophy draught.
Surprisingly, Ghana has won two of the four cup of nations trophy as a host and the other two on north African soil (Tunisia in 1965 & Libya in 1982) but really struggled to make huge impact in Egypt.
The last time the West African country travelled to Egypt for AFCON tournament was in 2006 when they had missed the previous edition in Tunisia. It was an undeniable fact that Ghana had lost its prowess as a football nation on the continent despite their maiden qualification for the world cup in that same year.
Ghana lost the services of some key players for the tournament including Asamoah Gyan and the then highly rated Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien to what some football fans described as ‘fake injury’. The doubt hits the roof when Essien featured 90 minutes for Chelsea in the premier league the day after Ghana got eliminated from the competition after their last group game defeat to Zimbabwe in Port Said.
The fortunes of Ghana’s campaign got worsened when skipper Stephen Appiah had to play the last game unfit and instrumental winger Laryea Kingston being red carded following a bust up with Senegalese defender Habib Beye which ruled him out of the Mundial in Germany.
This current generation of Black Stars have been very consistent and impressive in their last six editions of the African football festival – finishing at the semifinals but have really labored to lay hands on the glittering trophy despite losing the finals twice to Egypt in 2010 and Ivory Coast in 2015.
The 4 time African champions have not been forgiven by their passionate fans for their near misses in recent times. The desperation to win AFCON glory has hit its highest crescendo as Captain Asamoah Gyan leads his army men to Egypt to make amends which will bring the expected joy into the hearts of Ghanaians.
Cairo is not an unknown territory for the Black Stars headed coach Kwesi Appiah who is hoping to be guided by the results of their last two world qualifying games which ended in a defeat to Ghana. Another expected inspiration to be drawn by Ghana, is the 2009 U20 world cup success in Egypt. That tournament served as a platform for some players of this generation including now deputy skipper Andre Ayew and a return to that same country is expected to serve as a tonic to end Ghana’s long awaited crown.
Hosting the 2019 summer competition would mean the tournament is heading to Pharaoh’s land for the fifth time. The Pharaohs have been very impressive on the continent and also as hosts. Winning three (3) titles in their last 4 tournaments as host makes pretournament favorite.
Well, the Pharaohs went on hibernation by missing three tournaments (2012, 2013, & 2015) after they have won the previous 3 competitions (2006, 2008 & 2015). Come June 2019- the expanded tournament will be on and it will be summer-held. With the hosting right handed to Egypt has activated their taste to reclaim their lost glories on the continent especially losing to Cameroon in the finals when they staged a return.
The size of the 2019 AFCON alone makes it a very open but the Black Stars understands the herculean task ahead. They cannot be keep falling on the land of Egypt. As they return to the land of Pharaoh in this difficult circumstances, Ghanaians cannot wait for their hope to be postponed to another 2year.
Article by Michael Okuley