Africa’s top soccer tournament is returning to Gabon for the second time in five years.
The West African country, which co-hosted the 2012 tournament with Equatorial Guinea, was selected ahead of Ghana and Algeria to host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations competition. Original hosts Libya withdrew last year.
Qualifiers for the championship begin in June with 52 of the Confederation of African Soccer (CAF) members participating. Somalia and Eritrea aren’t entered.
The draw for the qualifiers took place last week.
Defending champions Ivory Coast is in the same group with Sudan, Sierra Leone and Gabon; seven-time winners Egypt is grouped with three-time champions Nigeria, Tanzania and Chad; 2015 runner-up Ghana will compete with Mozambique, Rwanda and Mauritius; four-time winners Cameroon is in the same bracket with Mauritania, South Africa and Gambia and two-time champions the Democratic Republic of Congo is placed with Angola, Madagascar and the Central African Republic.
The winners of the 13 groups, along with the two best-placed runners-up, excluding the group that consist hosts Gabon which automatically qualifies, will contest the 16-team tournament.
Meanwhile, CAF president, Issa Hayatou, will remain on the job for at least another six years.
At the organization’s congress in Cairo last week, delegates representing the 54 countries voted to change the statutes which previously prevented officials from serving beyond the age of 70. It was proposed that the CAF should bring its rules in line with those of the International Soccer Federation (FIFA), the world’s governing body for the sport.
Hayatou, 68, will be able to stand for another term in office in 2017. His current mandate ends in two years and he’s seeking four more years until at least 2021, when he turns 75.
A former athletics official, Cameroonian-born Hayatou has been president since 1988.
Meanwhile, Constant Omari Selemani of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tarek Bouchamaoui of Egypt are Africa’s newest representatives on FIFA’s executive committee. Selemani defeated incumbent Jacques Anouma of the Ivory Coast by 34 votes to 20 while Algerian Mohamed Raouraoua, the other incumbent, withdrew before the poll.
The new members will serve a two-year term after which they will be up for re-election as Africa changed its rules on how it fills its four places on the 25-member FIFA committee.
Beginning in 2017, Africa will reserve one seat for the CAF president, one each for a member from French and English-speaking countries and the other to be shared among the Arabic and Portuguese-speaking countries.