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The Confederation of African Football has announced the official suspension of 23 stadiums in preparation for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers scheduled for next June.

CAF is (finally) cracking down on the stadium issue. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has confirmed the official suspension of 23 soccer stadiums on the continent for the upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers, currently scheduled for June. Among the countries concerned are Burkina Faso (the 4-Août stadium in Ouagadougou was already suspended) and Sierra Leone, which should have received Benin in Conakry last March, before the suspension of the Siaka Stevens stadium was lifted in a second time. On the other hand, joining the list of countries deprived of stadiums approved by CAF’s Safety and Security Department is a cold shower for West African powers Senegal and Mali.

All sub-regions of the continent are affected, except for the UNAF zone (Maghreb + Egypt). West Africa (Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone but also Liberia, Gambia, Sao Tome, Niger), Central Africa (Chad, Central African Republic), East Africa (South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Burundi, Zanzibar) and Southern Africa (Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi). These countries will have to find a fallback solution in one of the countries with a standard infrastructure. This is not necessarily an easy task, especially in the context of a pandemic. Others escape this punishment, but will have to desert their favourite pitch. This is the case of the DRC, since only the TP Mazembe stadium in Lubumbashi (photo) has been approved, unlike that of Martyrs in Kinshasa. As things stand, only five countries would be able to host a CAN with 24 teams: Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.

Strict criteria
The issue of sports venues was discussed on March 30 at the CAF executive committee meeting. In the wake of this, the Confederation sent a letter to the general secretaries of member associations, requesting a full inspection report on the stadium (including photos and videos) before April 25, 2021. To obtain the green light, a battery of criteria had to be met. The quality of the pitch (natural or synthetic) and the benches, the lighting, the numbering of the seats, the cleanliness of the changing rooms, the sanitary facilities for the spectators, the security of the stadium and the equipment of the media facilities were all scrutinized. 23 countries did not meet the requirements.

The time of special treatment and arrangements seems to be well and truly over at CAF. The impulse comes from above, from Zurich to be more precise. On February 1, 2020, the FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, took advantage of a visit to Morocco to display his ambition in this area. The health crisis has obviously not relegated this grand design to oblivion. On April 23, during a visit to Morocco, the new president of CAF, Patrice Motsepe, entrusted Fouzi Lekjaa, president of the Moroccan Football Federation and member of the FIFA Council, with the responsibility of this ambitious « project for the development of soccer infrastructures on the continent ». « This new infrastructure project, valued at one billion dollars, should change the face of African soccer. It will be followed closely by the new president of CAF, » wrote the pan-African body in a statement. At the time of the assessments, the reign of Patrice Motsepe will therefore be judged in part on the issue of infrastructure.