ZIMBABWE’S chances of hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) received a further boost yesterday after Botswana indicated they were ready to co-host the 2017 finals once they obtain the necessary government guarantee.
Zimbabwe had been talking to Zambia, but failed to get a favourable response after sending representatives to Lusaka last week for negotiations, while Botswana responded positively yesterday.
Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze confirmed the development.
“They have responded well and they are very keen. We are still working on the document for the bid,” Mashingaidze said.
The bids are due to be submitted next Tuesday to the Confederation of African Football (Caf) secretariat in Cairo, Egypt. Ghana and Algeria, who have both hosted the some Caf events in the past, are also interested, while Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are also said to be considering joint bids.
In a letter to Zifa yesterday, Botswana Football Association chief executive officer Keith Masters wrote: “We are delighted that the Zifa would consider the Botswana Football Association (BFA) as a partner and our country as worthy co-hosts.
“Our federation has been exploring the possibility of a bid to co-host the Afcon 2017 finals since the call for applications was made by the Caf general secretary, and we, too, were considering an invitation to Zimbabwe.
“We must, of course, obtain full government backing and we are in the process of seeking undertakings and guarantees from the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture.
“I noted from our conversation earlier that you already have the backing and support of your respective government.
“Please accept this letter as the BFA’s commitment to jointly hosting the finals with you. I will revert as soon as I have a response from the ministry.”
The 2017 finals were due to be held in Libya, but had to be moved to the civil war there. On Saturday, the Caf executive committee also designated Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Guinea as the hosts for the 2019, 2021 and 2023 finals.
Zimbabwe has previously been given the rights in 2000, but the games were taken to Ghana and Nigeria after Zifa failed to get a government guarantee and also lost the rights to Angola in 2010, the same time that Caf made the decision to have the 2017 finals in Libya.
Botswana’s biggest stadium is in the capital which takes in 30 000 people after recent renovations, which started ahead of the 2010 World Cup which was staged in South Africa. The venue also hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and track and field events of the Africa Youth Games in May.
Francistown Stadium, just 180km by road from Bulawayo, has a capacity of 27 000, followed by Lobatse Stadium (20 000) and Molepolole which has a capacity of 15 000 and needs to be upgraded to the standard 20 000-seater or more.
Some of the best hotels in Botswana include Gaborone Sun, Gaborone Hotel, Cresta Lodge, the five-star Ngoma Safari Lodge bordering the western edge of Chobe National Park, Grand Palm and Sunbeam Hotel, located 5km from the Gaborone International Conference Centre.
For transport, Air Botswana flies to Francistown, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Lusaka and there are connecting flights from Johannesburg to Gaborone daily (55 minutes). From Harare to Gaborone, the flight takes two hours 10 minutes.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has the National Sports Stadium (60 000), Barbourfields (30 000 after renovations that are ongoing) and Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane which has a capacity of 20 000. Rufaro Stadium has an artificial turf which needs to be removed, but has a sitting capacity of 35 000.