CAF: Moi to blame for Kenya Afcon 96 hosting failure

    After 21 years, Kenyans can finally know why the country failed to host the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations.

    According to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) President Issa Hayatou, retired President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi personally wrote to him to confirm that Kenya would not host the biennial continental showpiece.

    Subsequently, Kenya was banned from the next two Afcon tournaments and the event awarded to South Africa who went on to record a famous 2-0 victory over Tunisia in the final to lift their first and only continental title as the nation emerged from apartheid.

    During the screening of a one and a half hour long documentary on the football evolution in Africa watched by delegates attending the 39th Ordinary General Assembly on Tuesday night in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Hayatou explained why Kenya lost Afcon 96.

    “Then President Daniel Moi wrote to me saying Kenya was not ready.  Morocco and South Africa were ready for the challenge and eventually we settled on South Africa. It was an amazing tournament inspired by the late president Nelson Mandela,” Hayatou announced.

    In 1993, Kenya was chosen as host of the 1996 Afcon, much to the delight of the public who were overjoyed at the prospect of watching the stars of the time that included the likes of Abedi Pele (Ghana), George Weah (Liberia), Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha (Nigeria) and Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia) among others.

    Later, it was reported that Moi’s Kanu Government was reluctant to construct the new stadiums needed in Nairobi and Mombasa in mistaken belief the 96 Afcon would make the opposition popular among the Kenyan masses.

    Kenya Football Federation, as the local governing body was known at the time was led by the late Joab Omino, an outspoken opposition Member of Parliament with a close advisor to Moi rumoured to have told the Head of State to sabotage the tournament.

    -2018 CHAN assurances-

    Over two decades later, Kenya is on the verge of hosting the first continental football tournament after CAF gave the green light to host the 2018 Africa Home Nations Championship (Chan) early next year on Tuesday in Addis Ababa.

    Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Nick Mwendwa who is in Ethiopia for the CAF Assembly expressed a sigh of relief after the CAF Executive Committee gave the go ahead to prepare for the 2018 Chan.

    In granting the country the go ahead to stage the second tier continental football showpiece, CAF bosses noted significant progress had been made on the ground and there is strong commitment from the Kenyan government to host the competition and make it a success.

    “As I said from the word go, we are hosting Chan 2018. The Executive Committee’s resolution is a big statement because it concludes the report of what the inspectors saw in Nairobi on a positive note.

    “You realise everyone is talking about commitment because of the drive we have for the whole thing. My hope is that every stakeholder will keep up the spirit so that by the time they go back to Kenya for a follow up inspection, we will have made great strides,” Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Mwendwa told Citizen Digital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

    The endorsement came after an inspection tour by CAF officials led by First Vice-president Suketu Patel from February 20 to 24 where two stadiums in Nairobi and one each in Eldoret, Meru and Machakos earmarked for the tournament were visited.

    The development came as huge relief for Mwendwa following reports the inspection tour had given the facilities a low score with Ethiopia and Morocco said to have been waiting in the wings in case Kenya were stripped of the hosting rights.

    The FKF chief recounted how Kenya lost the opportunity to stage the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) saying a similar outcome for the 2018 Chan would have doomed the country’s chances of holding a major tournament.

    “Once you tell the world you are ready to take up a challenge, you must bear all the responsibility that comes with it.

    “It is not easy to but we have to get it right, there is no second way about it,” Mwendwa underscored.

    -Jacob Icia is reporting from Addis Ababa/Material from was used in this report.