Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE is set to make an ambitious move to host the 2017 African Cup of Nations after Government yesterday tasked Zifa and the Sport and Recreation Commission to prepare the documentation needed to officially launch a bid with the Confederation of African Football.
CAF last month officially opened bids from prospective countries for the staging of the Nations Cup, which had originally been scheduled for Libya in 2017 and Zifa expressed an interest in trying their luck but only on the basis of the necessary Government guarantee for the bid.
The continental body announced the opening of the bids on the CAF official website cafonline.com and indicated that the Libyans had withdrawn from hosting the competition.
Libya had originally been scheduled to host the 2013 Nations Cup before swapping with then 2017 hosts South Africa after civil strife took its toll on the North African country and forced it to postpone the staging of the biennial tournament.
Caf announced last month that the Libyans had officially withdrawn from staging the event citing the lack of security guarantees in the country.
Consequently, the Secretary-General of CAF, Hicham El Amrani, dispatched a circular on 23rd August, 2014, to all 54 member associations informing them of the decision and “opening bids for the hosting of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.
“The designation of the Host for this competition will be made according to the statutory provisions of CAF, especially in conformity with articles 27 to 47 of the Regulations Governing the Application of CAF Statutes.
“The CAF headquarters in Cairo will receive applications until Tuesday 30th September, 2014.
“In addition to the government guarantee, and considering the limited time left for the organisation of the 2017 edition, the CAF Executive Committee will select a host country whose dossier guarantees that accommodation, transportation and hotels facilities, as well as training sites and stadiums already exist.
“The designation of the host country will be made at a meeting of the Executive Committee in 2015,’’ read part of the CAF statement.
After receiving the Caf circular Zifa, through the Sports Commission, sounded out the Government and Sport, Arts and Culture Minister, Andrew Langa, and his Tourism and Hospitality counterpart Walter Mzembi, are understood to be keen to convince their colleagues in cabinet that Zimbabwe should submit an official bid that has the requisite government guarantee.
A series of meetings have been taking place since Zifa advised the Sports Ministry of the developments and yesterday another consultative meeting was held between the two ministries, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the Sports Commission and Zifa.
Sports Commission director-general Charles Nhemachena emerged from the indaba to confirm that the supreme sports body and Zifa had now been tasked with providing Langa and Mzembi with the documentation they would need to table the bid before Cabinet.
Nhemachena said although Zimbabwe’s bid hinged on securing the government guarantee which was a CAF pre-requisite, all the parties would “stand guided by Zifa’’ as the continental body’s member association.
“Zifa have always expressed an interest to host as many tournaments as possible as part of development efforts for the game.
“In this particular instance they expressed an interest for the 2017 African cup of Nations.
“The hosting fists in well with the vision for the 2034 World Cup which was expressed by Minister Mzembi and we can only enhance our chances of bidding for that World Cup by demonstrating our capacity to host other sporting events,’’ Nhemachena said.
Nhemachena said the Tourism industry had shown keen interest and support for the Zifa initiative after realising the benefits that could accrue from the likelihood of Zimbabwe staging a tournament of the magnitude of the Nations Cup.
“The benefits for sport tourism are there for everyone to see, not only in football but other sporting disciplines as well.
“There is consensus between our parent ministry, the tourism ministry and ZTA in terms of trying to bring the tournament to Zimbabwe,’’ Nhemachena said.
The Sports Commission boss also indicated that the bid team was also considering co-hosting the tournament should they find a willing partner from within the neighbouring countries in the Southern African region.
“We are exploring the possibility of going it alone or partnering another country that is like-minded to what we have.
“We are aware that the bids must be submitted by 30 September and we are now working with Zifa and the ministries to get the necessary government guarantee’’.
Nhemachena also expressed confidence that Cabinet would approve of the Zimbabwe bid.
“The good part is that there is consensus by the lead ministries on the project and we are going to do the necessary paperwork for Cabinet’s consideration and approval.
“Zim-Asset (Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation) demands that all sectors make a contribution to the economic development of the country and this is one of sport’s ways of contributing,’’ Nhemachena said.