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Gov’t moves to douse fears of 2019 AFCON hosting rights

Cameroon's Sports Minister has said that the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will go ahead in the country despite concerns…

Cameroon’s Sports Minister has said that the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations will go ahead in the country despite concerns over the pace of preparations. Recent reports suggest that stadium construction is behind schedule while Cameroon also faces economic problems.

“Despite security concerns, social and economic crises, the government and President Paul Biya are totally engaged to do everything for the Nations Cup to go ahead,” said Ismael Bidoung.

Cameroon won this year’s Nations Cup.

In the wake of concerns aired about Cameroon’s readiness, North African nations Algeria and Morocco have recently put themselves forward as back-up options for the finals. Bidoung said that group games will take place in five cities, with Limbe having been added to the four venues mentioned in Cameroon’s original bid: Bafoussam, Douala, Garoua and the capital Yaounde.

However, more venues are needed for the teams’ training – some of which were already used when Cameroon hosted the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year. “Of the 32 stadia required for the 2019 Nations Cup, the 11 that served for the 2016 Women Africa Cup of Nations are ready and functional,” said Bidoung.

“For the 21 other stadia, 14 are under rehabilitation and 7 are still to be constructed.” The stadiums in Yaounde (the 60,000-capacity Japoma) and in Douala (50,000) are those that require the most reconstruction work.

Italian firm Piccini is working on the Olembe stadium in Yaounde and has reassured Cameroonians that it will deliver the venue three months before the finals begin. It added that 80% of the material will be precast in Italy before being shipped to Cameroon.

“The stadium will be ready for Caf inspection in September 2017, but you must be aware that work will still be going on in the complex afterwards,” said Marc Debandt, the director for the Olembe project. “The commercial centre and hotel will be completed afterwards.”

One former Cameroon international, Patrick Mboma, is fearful about the slow pace of work across his nation. “For the past two years I have been sending out a distress signal,” he said on Twitter. “Cameroon is not advancing for the 2019 Nations Cup. Let’s avoid humiliation. This is a dream that must not be shattered.” Cameroon has won the Nations Cup five times, four more than it has hosted the event – with its sole staging coming back in 1972, when Congo took the title. Culled and edited from BBC