Morocco and Algeria are favoured to be named hosts of the 2025 and 2027 Africa Cup of Nations tournaments respectively, with an announcement to be made in Cairo on Wednesday.
Both are seeking to stage the 2025 edition of the premier African sport event, along with Zambia and a joint Nigeria-Benin bid.
Algeria also entered the 2027 contest, as did Botswana, Egypt, Senegal and a combined Kenya-Tanzania-Uganda challenge.
After a number of deadlines passed without the hosts being revealed, a senior African Football Confederation (CAF) official told AFP “the two hosts will definitely be named on September 27”.
Executive committee members will vote after studying independent appraisals of each 2025 and 2027 candidate, but politics and a promise of regional rotation have complicated matters.
North African neighbours Algeria and Morocco have an adversarial political relationship, which entered the football arena this year.
A ban on Moroccan aircraft flying over Algeria led to the withdrawal of the team representing the kingdom from the 2022/2023 African Nations Championship (CHAN) for home-based players.
Morocco had won the previous two editions and when their request to fly directly to Algeria was denied, they boycotted the tournament, robbing it of one of the title favourites.
Both countries boast superb stadia and infrastructure and football-loving populations, and are capable of delivering world-class Cup of Nations tournaments.
But both would like to be the 2025 hosts with leading Moroccan and CAF official Fouzi Lekjaa causing a mid-year stir when he told local politicians that the kingdom would be chosen.
Domestic media quoted him saying “the Fes stadium will have the honour of hosting CAN (Cup of Nations) 2025 matches when Morocco wins the organisation”.
CAF president and South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe is acutely aware of the political rivalry between the neighbours.
“We must not get involved in what is happening between Algeria and Morocco. CAF should never intervene in politics,” he said during the CHAN tournament.
Motsepe has hailed the organisational abilities of both countries, who have each staged the Cup of Nations once with Morocco doing so in 1988 and Algeria two years later.
“Morocco has often flawlessly hosted major competitions while the CHAN in Algeria this year was the best ever,” he said.
During the CHAN, Motsepe said he wanted each region to host the Cup of Nations: “We cannot assign the organisation of the CAN successively to the same region.”
However, several months later, CAF secretary general Veron Mosengo-Omba said regional rotation may not always be possible.
“Today, only five or six countries out of the 54 CAF members are able to apply to host the African Cup. Consequently, it will not be possible to make this alternation,” he said.
What began in 1957 as a three-team tournament is now a 24-nation event featuring stars such as Mohamed Salah, Victor Osimhen, Andre Onana, Sadio Mane and Hakim Ziyech.
Hosts must have a minimum of six stadiums – two with a capacity of at least 40,000 and four able to accommodate 20,000 or more spectators.
The Ivory Coast will stage the 2023/2024 Cup of Nations, which has been postponed from June and July this year to January and February next year to avoid the rainy season.
Shadab Khan provides an update on his injury
Pakistan all-rounder, Shadab Khan suffered an unexpected injury during National T20 Cup match between Rawalpindi and Sialkot in Karachi on Sunday.
The incident took place as Shadab was fielding during the match, having bowled two economical overs. The unfortunate mishap occurred when the ball unexpectedly rose above his foot, resulting in a sudden and painful ankle twist.
The video footage of Shadab being carried off the field piggyback style by a teammate went viral on social media, raising concerns about the severity of the injury.
نیشنل T20 کرکٹر شادب خان انجری کا شکار شاداب کو کندھوں پر اٹھاکر ڈرینسنگ روم منتقل کیا گیا راولپنڈی کی کپتان سیالکوٹ کے خلاف میچ کھیلتے ہوئے پائوں کی انجری کا شکار ہوئے @76Shadabkhan @TheRealPCB #shadabkhan #IslamabadUnited pic.twitter.com/mEnGqmayi2
— KHIZAR AZAM (@KHIZARAZAM) December 3, 2023
In an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan, Shadab recounted the incident and explained the severity of the pain that left him incapacitated for a few minutes, making it difficult for him to comprehend the extent of the injury and eventually he had to seek assistance.
“When the ball came above my foot, I had an ankle twist. When the ankle twisted, I couldn’t even comprehend it for 2-3 minutes because the pain was severe. Then I tried to walk to the sidelines. The boundary on the side was a bit short, so I walked out there, but after that, I didn’t have the courage to continue walking. Then there was a guy there, so I thought of somehow making it to the dressing room,” Shadab said.
Fortunately, Shadab provided a glimmer of optimism when discussing his current status of his fitness.
“Now the fitness is improving. The injury is not too major. The report has come, but the doctors haven’t told me how much time it will take. As soon as they tell, the rehab will start according to their instructions.” he further added.
Shadab highlighted the proactive approach being taken to ensure effective rehabilitation process ahead of Pakistan’s T20I series against New Zealand in January.
“The injury doesn’t seem too prolonged. The physios will assess it and plan accordingly for the New Zealand series.” he concluded.
Shadab Khan opens up about Babar Azam’s resignation from captaincy
Pakistan all-rounder, Shadab Khan, has expressed his perspective on Babar Azam’s recent choice to relinquish the captaincy across all formats of the national cricket team.
In an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan, Shadab conveyed his admiration for Babar’s decision and conveyed his heartfelt best wishes.
The leg-spinner also shared positive sentiments regarding the newly appointed T20I captain for the national side, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
“Look, everyone has their own decision, and Babar has stepped down. We send him our best wishes. We’ve had a great time with him as the captain for Pakistan. Now, Shaheen has taken on the role, and we’re excited about it. We’ve witnessed his [Shaheen’s] captaincy in the PSL, and it feels great. Let’s see how it goes playing under his captaincy for the first time; it will give an idea of how much fun it is, and I am very excited to play under Shaheen’s captaincy,” Shadab said.
On November 15th, Babar relinquished his captaincy following a meeting with Zaka Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Management Committee.
After stepping down, Shan Masood was appointed as the Test captain of the Pakistan Men’s Cricket Team, and Shaheen Shah Afridi was named as the T20I captain by the PCB.
Shaheen’s first task as the T20I captain for the Men in Green side will be leading the team against New Zealand in a five-match T20 series scheduled to take place from January 12 to January 21, 2024.
Pakistan vs New Zealand T20I series schedule:
- January 12: New Zealand vs Pakistan – First T20I in Auckland
- January 14: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Second T20I in Hamilton
- January 17: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Third T20I in Dunedin
- January 19: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fourth T20I in Christchurch
- January 21: New Zealand vs Pakistan – Fifth T20I in Christchurch
Messi’s Argentina to face Chile in Copa America
Lionel Messi and Argentina will get the chance to avenge their defeats to Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals after being grouped with their old rivals in the draw for next year’s tournament on Thursday.
Reigning Copa America champions Argentina will defend their title in the United States next summer in an expanded 16-team tournament which features 10 South American teams and six qualifiers from the CONCACAF region.
Argentina, winners of last year’s World Cup, will kick off the tournament on June 20 in Atlanta against either Canada or Trinidad & Tobago, who meet in a playoff next year to determine one of two remaining CONCACAF slots.
The Argentines will then face Chile in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on June 25 in a repeat of the 2016 Copa America Centenario final held at the same venue.
Argentina, beaten by Chile in Santiago on penalties a year earlier in 2015, also lost the 2016 final on spot-kicks, with Messi blazing his penalty over the bar.
The Argentine captain later announced a short-lived retirement from international football after the defeat, before reversing the move and continuing his career.
The world champions will wrap up their Group A campaign in familiar territory for Inter Miami’ Messi, facing Peru in Miami on June 29 in their final first-round game.
Elsewhere, Mexico were drawn in a Group B alongside Ecuador, Venezuela and Jamaica, while the United States face Uruguay, Panama and Bolivia in Group C.
Five-time world champions Brazil, beaten in the 2021 final on home soil by Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, have a potentially tricky group containing Colombia, Paraguay and either Costa Rica or Honduras.
Next year’s Copa America is being seen as an effective test run for the 2026 World Cup taking place in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said at Thursday’s draw that the tournament would be a “Copa America of the World.”
“The world champion team (Argentina), the only five-time world champion team (Brazil), the first world champion team (Uruguay) will take part, along with the best players in the world, who are Latin Americans,” Dominguez said.
Brazil open their campaign at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, the futuristic home of the Los Angeles Rams NFL team, against either Costa Rica or Honduras on June 24.
They face Paraguay in Las Vegas on June 28 before concluding their group play against Colombia at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, home of the San Francisco 49ers.
A total of 14 stadiums will be used for the tournament, most of them large capacity venues that belong to NFL teams.
If Argentina win Group A, they will face the runner-up from Group B in the quarter-finals on July 4 at Houston’s NRG Stadium – where they defeated the United States in the semi-final in 2016.
The Arlington, Texas home of the Dallas Cowboys will host another quarter-final on July 5, with Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium and the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, rounding out the last eight venues.
The semi-finals will take place at East Rutherford on July 9, and in Charlotte on July 10, with the final taking place at Miami on July 14.
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