Libya are pushing hard to host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, a chance to showcase the soccer prowess of its youth and mark a return to normal times in a country plagued by post-revolutionary unrest.
The North African country was to host the 2013 tournament, but the revolution which overthrew Muammar Qaddafi two years ago saw South Africa step in, ahead of its scheduled hosting of the 2017 event.
Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Awad al-Baraassi, the head of its organizing committee, said his oil-rich country is “determined” to step back in and host the tournament on its 60th anniversary, using “all its resources” to ensure success.
The task is a tall order, though, with Libyan authorities struggling to impose law and order in a country still plagued by insecurity and violence.
Libyan Youth and Sports Minister Abdessalem Ghulia said hosting the 2017 tournament would be the ideal opportunity to usher in a new era of post-conflict normality in Libya.
“Organizing the Africa Cup [of Nations] will show a return to normal life across the country and the launch of development projects,” Ghulia said.
“It’s not only a sports event, but an opportunity to move on from revolution to reconstruction of the state,” he said, appealing for both the public and private sectors to join in the “national project.”
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said that security holds the key.
“Nobody will come to us if security is not restored,” Zeidan said, calling for unity against violence and for the disbanding of militias which spread insecurity across the country.
The authorities have launched a charm campaign to convince the Confederation of African Football (CAF) they can host the event, bringing in Mustafa Abdel Jalil, a former soccer player who led the anti-Qaddafi revolt.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter and CAF president Issa Hayatou have given their support for Libya to host the 2017 championships, the organizing committee said.
Libya would host matches in three cities: Tripoli, Misrata and Benghazi.
Organizers said the matches would be played in six stadiums, two of them to be built in Tripoli with a seating capacity of 60,000 and 22,000, and one in Misrata for 23,000 spectators.
A CAF delegation is expected to visit Tripoli and Benghazi later this month to check on the infrastructure and security situation.