BATA: A major gamble by Issa Hayatou, president of the African football confederation, becomes active reality this weekend as the Nations Cup finals kick off in Equatorial Guinea.
The venue for the finals was switched only two months ago after original host Morocco proposed postponing the event because of fears over the spread of the ebola virus.
Hayatou and CAF rejected the idea so the opening match of the 30th edition of the finals will feature the home country against Congo. Three hours later Burkina Faso will meet Gabon in the other Group A match.
Both games will be played in Bata, the country’s biggest city, which also held the opening game in 2012 when the tournament was co-hosted with Gabon. The other venues are Ebebiyin, Malabo and Mongomo with the final back in Bata on February 8.
Concerns about the rough and ready facilities grew when Congo coach Claude Le Roy said five of his 35-strong party did not have accommodation while Burkina Faso coach Paul Put said the event should have been delayed until June.
Human rights groups have complained about the country’s record under President Teodoro Obiang Nguema who has personally paid for 40,000 tickets for fans to attend matches.
Champions Nigeria did not qualify, meaning they will sit out the tournament along with seven-times winners Egypt – the most successful nation in the competition’s history.
Group A: Burkina Faso, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon
Group B: Zambia, DR Congo, Tunisia, Cape Verde
Group C: Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Algeria
Group D: Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Cameroon