Egypt, one of the countries listed as possible hosts of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, has announced the withdrawal of its bid.
The nation’s sports minister Khaled Abdel-Aziz said that the decision was taken so as not to dilute support for the bid of fellow Arab contenders, Algeria. Getting behind Algeria’s bid would be more sensible than opposing and competing with it, according to the minister.
The real reason might, however, be somewhat less noble. Crowd violence on an epic scale has become a blot on the landscape of Egyptian football in recent months. The most recent incident resulted in the death of 22 fans following violent clashes with police. The incident on February 8th resulted in the suspension of domestic leagues nationwide and revived memories of another deadly clash in 2012 in which a total of 72 fans were killed.
Despite the challenges Egyptian football currently faces, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab remains hopeful that leagues will not be permanently cancelled.
“Frankly, I hope the league returns but it must resume in a secure and safe atmosphere,” Mahlab said. “We will discuss this subject next week in the cabinet. Our priority is to balance the importance of the league’s return with the safety of footballers. If the league resumes, it will be definitely without fans at stadiums,” Mahlab added.
With Egypt’s withdrawal of its bid, CAF has to select the hosts for the 2017 AFCON tournament from a pool that includes Algeria, Gabon and 2015 losing finalists, Ghana.
Egypt has an impressive history at the Africa Cup of Nations, having previously hosted the tournament in 1974, 1986 and most recently in 2006. Egypt also holds the proud honour of being the country with the most successes at the tournament with seven titles in 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010.