Algeria lobbies to replace Libya as host of African Nations Cups finals

A soccer stadium in Libya. (File Photo)
A soccer stadium in Libya. (File Photo)
Algeria has joined South Africa in lobbying to host the 2013 African Nations Cup finals on the assumption that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) will move the tournament away from Libya because of the civil strife racking the North African country.

Algerian Football Federation officials expressed interest in replacing Libya as the tournament’s host in advance of a CAF decision expected in September. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) last month backed away from statements that it too was interested in acting as a substitute host for Libya.

“It might help in our bid to qualify for the next World Cup finals,” federation spokesman Abdelkader Berdja said.
South Africa, which will host the 2017 African Nations Cup finals said earlier that it was eager to replace Libya.
South Africa in April stepped in to replace Libya as hosts of this year’s African Youth Championships.

Libyan professional soccer has been suspended since mass anti-government protests erupted in February in demand of an end to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s 41-year rule.

Mr. Qaddafi’s brutal crackdown on the protesters prompted the United Nations Security Council to impose a no-fly zone in Libya. NATO-backed rebels have been fighting a virtual civil war since then against Qaddafi loyalists.

Libyan soccer clubs have continued to play international matches despite the suspension but have given up the right to play a home leg in knockout ties opting instead for a single game on their opponent’s home ground. The loss of the home advantage coupled with their country’s crisis has meant that no Libyan club has made it past the African Champions League and African Confederation Cup preliminaries.

Libya has so far resisted from withdrawing as host of the 2013 tournament. But in an indication that it recognizes that it is unlikely to retain the right, Libya this weekend cancelled playing an All-Africa Games qualifier paving the way for Egypt to advance to the tournament’s finals in the Mozambique capital of Maputo in September.

A group of 17 leading Libyan soccer figures last month defected to the rebels in their country. The defectors include national team goalkeeper, Juma Gtat, three other national team members, and the coach of Tripoli’s top club al-Ahli, Adel bin Issa. Al Ahli is owned by Mr. Qaddafi’s mercurial, soccer playing son, Al Saadi Al Qaddafi.

The defections constitute a symbolic blow to Mr. Qadaffi. All the more so because it is only three months ago that Al Ahli Tripoli fans cheered Saadi as he toured Tripoli’s Green Square on the roof of a car, waving and shaking the hands of supporters, who chanted “God, Libya and Muammar only.”

CAF is eager to have the Libyan situation resolved earlier to avoid having to scramble to move the games at the last minute as it had to with the African Youth Championships.


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