Durban: President Jacob Zuma says government and the people of South Africa are fully prepared and ready to host a successful 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
The President made the assurance at the final draw of the 29th edition of Africa’s biggest soccer festival at the Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Wednesday evening.
“We are counting down the last 86 days before South Africa hosts the 29th edition of Africa’s biggest soccer festival, for the second time. We are eagerly looking forward to host this happy festival of African football next year.
“Government fully supports the South African Football Association and the Local Organising Committee. We have made the necessary guarantees to CAF [Confederation of African Football] to stage what we plan to be another successful sporting event after the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.”
He said in 2013, the world’s eyes will once again be on South Africa as the qualified 16 teams will be competing to be honoured as the tournament champions.
The President also extended his special congratulations to the Cape Verde national team, who be appearing for the first time in the tournament.
The Cape Verdians have unarguably achieved the greatest feat in the qualifiers by eliminating one of the giants of African football, Cameroon.
Zuma said the tournament would be a special occasion for South Africa as Bafana would be making a return after a four-year absence from the continental competition.
He said South Africa had a proud track record of hosting wonderful sporting events. “The 2013 Afcon will be a timely reflection on the legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which we hosted successfully with the support of the African continent.”
Zuma had earlier, during the draw, brought a sigh of relief and joy to South Africans when he picked up underdogs Cape Verde as Bafana’s opening match opponents.
The President also pledged his support for Gordon Igesund’s boys. “I will be keeping my fingers crossed for our national team, Bafana Bafana,” he said.
The host team was drawn in Group A with Cape Verde, Morocco and Angola. These four teams will be based in Durban.
Group B, which will be based in Port Elizabeth, comprises Ghana, DRC, Niger and Mali.
The defending champions, Chipolopolo of Zambia are in group C with Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
These teams will based in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.
The group of death, group D, comprises Ivory Coast, Togo, Algeria and Tunisia.
Afcon Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairman, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyane, gave an assurance to CAF, the 16 participating national teams, South Africans and the entire African continent that they would “not let them down”.
“We’ve already been put to the test by FIFA when we held the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We wish to assure the African football [fraternity] that we use football as a tool to uproot our people from the circles of poverty, war and diseases to promote peace in Africa.
“We can assure you that as you go home to start preparing for this tournament and come back to battle for this coveted trophy, you will find the LOC ready to deliver a seamless tournament.”
He added that their preparations were complete and they were ready to host the tournament.
“We’ve put in place plans around team transport, training venues, team hotels, including team security and escort mechanisms, and spectator experience that will ensure that every single stadium has an offering that is unique.”
A moment of silence was observed in memory of the late Bafana Bafana assistant coach, Thomas Madigage, 41, who died in a car accident in Burgersfort, Limpopo, last week. Madigage will be buried in Driekop, Limpopo, on Sunday.
South Africa will host the 2013 Afcon from January 19 until February 10.