The President of the Confederation of African Football, CAF, Patrice Motsepe has confirmed the Africa Cup of Nations would go ahead as planned in Cameroon, ending concerns that the already delayed finals could be postponed again.
The competition will start on January 9 with Cameroon set to play the opening match against Burkina Faso.
“I’m going to be here on Jan. 7 and I’m coming to watch football,” Motsepe told reporters. “I’m coming to watch on Jan. 9 (the opening match between) Cameroon against Burkina Faso. I’ll also be around to see when the trophy is handed over. I will be here with my wife and children.”
For long, there had been fears the 24-team tournament would be postponed again after Cameroon failed to host the event in 2019 due to inadequate preparations.
Fresh doubts were raised when FIFA President, Gianni Infantino voiced support for postponement, citing the FIFA Club World Cup that could coincide with the AFCON, as well as insecurity threats in Cameroon.
But after meeting with Cameroon’s President Paul Biya in his very recent visit to Cameroon, Motsepe reassured the public that Cameroon will indeed host the event that ends on February 6.
Despite these assurances from the CAF President, rights groups and other international actors have continued pilling pressure for the tournament to be postponed or canceled outright.
Human Rights in its latest report on Cameroon, urged CAF to cancel the competition on two grounds that it considers strong enough to deny Biya’s country the opportunity to receive African football lovers 49 years after it hosted the continental jamboree for the first time. Among the reasons advanced by Human Rights Watch are concerns about the spread of Covid-19 and the insecurity in the former UN Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons.
“The European Football Club Association, international observers, and media have raised concerns over the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to the large gathering of players and officials in Cameroon as well as prevailing insecurity in the two English-speaking regions of the country where matches will be played,” Human Rights Watch notes.
On the security front, the organization insists that “Since 2017, the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon have been embroiled in cycles of violence between government forces and armed separatist groups seeking independence from the country.
Several separatist leaders and activists have publicly threatened to disrupt AFCON if the authorities do not withdraw government troops from these regions. One group, citing its opposition to holding AFCON in the region, claimed responsibility for a December 12 bomb explosion that injured several people in a crowded neighborhood of Buea, the South-West regional capital. This is the fourth explosion in the city since November”.
The organization closes its argument with concerns that the thousands of sports lovers and tourists expected in the country may not be treated to quality healthcare delivery if the need arises. It writes, “Human Rights Watch has previously documented how the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions has severely curtailed people’s access to medical care and facilities and how widespread corruption has drained most of the US$382 million in International Monetary Fund loans to Cameroon to fight Covid-19”.
Meanwhile, Cameroon has named a 28-man squad for the Afcon. Drawn in Group A alongside Burkina Faso. Ethiopia and Cape Verde, the Indomitable Lions will be seeking to add more silver wear to their glittering record.
The five-time African Champions will be counting on team Captain, Vincent Aboubakar, his vice, Eric Maxim Tchoupo-Moting, and the likes of Ajax goalkeeper, Andre Onana to add a sixth title to their record.
Here are the men Lion’s coach, António Conceição da Silva Oliveira has called to defend Cameroon’s colors
Goalkeepers: Simon Omossola (AS Vita Club, DR Congo), Devis Epassy (OFI Crete, Greece), Andre Onana (Ajax, Netherlands).
Defenders: Collins Fai (Standard Liege, Belgium), Olivier Mbaizo (Philadelphia Union, USA), Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui (Gent, Belgium), JC Castelletto (Nantes, France), Harold Moukoudi (St Etienne, France), Enzo Ebosse (Angers, France), Ambroise Oyongo Bitolo (Montpellier, France), Jerome Onguene (Red Bull Salzburg, Austria), Nouhou Tolo (Seattle Sounders, USA).
Midfielders: Jean Onana Junior (Bordeaux, France), Malong Kunde (Olympiakos, Greece), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Napoli, Italy), Samuel Gouet Oum (Mechelen, Belgium), Martin Hongla (Hellas Verona, Italy), James Lea Siliki (Middlesbrough, England), Yvan Neyou (St Etienne, France).
Forwards: Ignatius Ganago (Lens, France), Christian Bassogog (Shanghai Shenua, China), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich, Germany), Stephane Bahoken (Angers, France), Karl Toko-Ekambi (Lyon, France), Moumi Ngamaleu (Young Boys, Switzerland), Vincent Aboubakar (Al Nasr, Saudi Arabia), Clinton Njie (Dinamo Moscow, Russia).