MOROCCO was awarded the hosting of the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations finals, replacing Guinea who was stripped of the right to host the tournament last year, while the 2027 rights were handed to a co-bid from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
Morocco won by default after Algeria, Zambia and a joint bid from Benin and Nigeria all withdrew before the vote of the Confederation of African Football’s executive committee in Cairo on Wednesday.
The North African country was a runaway favourite and will see the decision as a boost to their hopes of co-hosting the 2030 World Cup with Portugal and Spain but a victory for the joint East African bid for 2027 was a surprise.
It returns the finals to the region for the first time since 1976 as they beat Botswana, Egypt and Senegal in a vote. Algeria were also a candidate but withdrew on Tuesday.
Kenya had previously been awarded the hosting in 1996 but was stripped because of poor preparation. The country only recently had a long FIFA ban for government interference in the running of their football federation lifted.
“The tournament has to be spread around the regions and contribute to the development of football,” CAF president Patrice Motsepe said.
The 2025 finals will be only the second time that Morocco will host Africa’s most popular sporting event, almost four decades after the previous time in 1988.
Morocco was to have hosted the 2015 Cup of Nations finals but pulled out amid concerns over the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. It was a decision vigorously condemned at the time by the CAF, who banned the country from African competition for two years.
But Morocco has since embarked on a diplomatic charm offensive across the continent, using football to develop ties. They have hosted a variety of CAF events at women’s and age group levels and also allowed many African countries, who have been slapped with bans on hosting international games because of poor pitch or stadium conditions, to use stadia in Morocco.
When Morocco last hosted the Cup of Nations, it was an eight-team event played in only two venues, Casablanca and Rabat.
For 2025 they have proposed using six stadiums, in Agadir, Casablanca, Fes, Marrakech, Rabat and Tanger.
The hosting of the Cup of Nations has had a checkered history in the last decade, starting with South Africa stepping in to replace war-torn Libya in 2013.
In 2014 Guinea were awarded the right to host the 2023 finals, along with Cameroon (2019) and Ivory Coast (2021).
But Cameroon were declared not ready for the 2019 finals, so Egypt stepped in. Cameroon then hosted the 2021 edition, delayed by one year by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ivory Coast were supposed the host the 2023 event in June but it has been postponed by six months because of concerns over the rainy season in West Africa.
The next Cup of Nations finals are being held from January 13-February 11.