JOHANNESBURG: The South African Football Association said Thursday it had signed an agreement with Libya’s football federation to host the 2013 African Cup of Nations in place of the troubled north African nation.
In its statement, SAFA said the agreement will see Libya stage the 2017 Cup of Nations, which was initially awarded to South Africa, with the 2010 World Cup host country taking over the African Cup in two years’ time.
Libya’s staging of Africa’s top football championship had been in doubt since the uprising against dictator Moammar Qaddafi.
The Confederation of African Football denied the 2013 tournament had already been taken away from Libya, but conceded the country’s hosting would be discussed by the ruling body’s executive committee next month.
SAFA had said its deal to swap tournaments with Libya must still be confirmed by CAF at that executive committee meeting in Cairo on Sept. 28.
"All the issues regarding 2013 will be discussed at the end of September," CAF spokesman Suleiman Habuba told The Associated Press later Thursday. "The issues regarding 2013 will definitely be discussed by the executive committee and decisions on tournament hosting can only be made by the executive committee."
The South Africa-Libya agreement also covers the 2014 African Nations Cup, a tournament for emerging players, which was also to be hosted by Libya, SAFA said.
SAFA added the deal had come "following the political upheaval in Libya," but did not give details on when it had been signed.
South Africa already stepped in this year to cover for Libya by organizing the African Youth Championship at short notice in Johannesburg in April.
Libya’s civil war has escalated this week with anti-Qaddafi rebels taking over much of the Libyan capital Tripoli and overrunning Qaddafi’s personal compound, forcing the longtime ruler to retreat into hiding.
Egypt was reportedly also interested in hosting the 2013 Cup of Nations should it be taken away from Libya, while Nigeria was the reserve host after it lost out in the initial race to host the event.
However South Africa, with its existing infrastructure from last year’s World Cup, is regarded as the best choice for CAF as a stand-in host.
Gabon and Equatorial Guinea will co-host the next African Cup of Nations in January and February next year, while another north African country, Morocco, will hold the 2015 tournament.
Africa has back-to-back Cup of Nations tournaments in 2012 and 2013 to move its continental championship to a non-World Cup year.