Kenya loses hosting rights to African soccer tournament

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, right, speaks to the media at State House in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Kenya's electoral commission has announced it has moved the date for a fresh presidential election to Oct 26. The electoral commission had earlier set Oct 17 as the date for the fresh poll after the Supreme Court invalidated President Uhuru Kenyatta's August re-election and ordered a rerun within 60 days. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, speaks to the media at State House in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Kenya's president said Thursday the nullification of his re-election is a blow to the democratic ideals Kenyans fought for, describing it "as a judicial coup", while the electoral commission announced that it has moved the date for a fresh presidential election to Oct 26. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, left, accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, right, leaves after speaking to the media at State House in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Kenya's electoral commission has announced it has moved the date for a fresh presidential election to Oct 26. The electoral commission had earlier set Oct 17 as the date for the fresh poll after the Supreme Court invalidated President Uhuru Kenyatta's August re-election and ordered a rerun within 60 days. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

ACCRA, Ghana — Kenya was stripped of the right to host the 2018 African Nations Championship because of delays in its preparations and the Confederation of African Football opened a new bidding process on Sunday, giving itself just a week to find a new country.

The Confederation of African Football cited "accumulated delays" in Kenya's preparations for CHAN early next year, the continental championship for players playing in their home leagues. It's the No. 2 tournament for national teams in Africa behind the African Cup of Nations.

CAF made the decision to take the tournament away from Kenya at an executive committee meeting in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday.

"With an overwhelming majority of the members present, it was decided to withdraw the hosting rights of the competition from Kenya in the light of accumulated delays from reports of the various inspection missions conducted in the country, the last of which took place from 11 to 17 September 2017," CAF said.

Countries seeking to step in as replacement host must submit applications by next Sunday, said CAF, which was forced into a fast-tracked bidding process with the tournament scheduled to be played from Jan. 12-Feb. 4.

Morocco, which is bidding to host the 2026 World Cup, has been touted as a possible replacement host because of its relatively established infrastructure.

Kenya's preparations for the 16-team tournament were already troubled before its presidential elections held in August were nullified and a re-vote was ordered. That re-vote is scheduled for next month, and the political instability has meant preparations for the soccer tournament have been further undermined.

Only one of the stadiums meant to host games has been deemed ready and Kenya's government only approved a $40 million budget to host the tournament last week, with just four months to go until kickoff.

Also at its meeting Saturday, CAF decided to open a tender process to recruit an audit firm to examine Cameroon's preparations for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, Africa's top soccer event.

Like Kenya, Cameroon's readiness to host the Cup of Nations has been under scrutiny. CAF said it needs to examine the state of Cameroon's "infrastructure to host the tournament," with the 2019 Cup of Nations the first to be expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

CAF president Ahmad, who goes by just one name, said that Cameroon would remain 2019 host for now.

Africa has had a succession of problems with host countries for its tournaments.

South Africa had to step in to host the 2013 African Cup of Nations after Libya conceded it wouldn't be able to. Equatorial Guinea took over the 2015 African Cup after Morocco withdrew over fears of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Libya again withdrew as host for this year's edition and Gabon was given the tournament on short notice.

The next three hosts for the African Cup were all decided by the former leadership of CAF: Cameroon in 2019, Ivory Coast in 2021 and Guinea in 2023.

CAF was forced to re-open the bidding process for the 2020 Women's African Cup of Nations after no bids were received on time. The 2019 under-23 African Cup was given to Egypt because it was the only country to submit a "complete" application, CAF said.

The poor quality of African candidates to host soccer tournaments reflects badly on Morocco, which is challenging the joint North American bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada for the 2026 World Cup.

___

Associated Press writer Mutwiri Mutuota in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.

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