Osasu Obayiuwana: Libya’s Cup of Nations takes some believing

Charity, they say, is supposed to begin at home. Or, at least, in your continent.

But I am wondering whether it is an adage that officials of Libya’s government and the football federation have ever taken to heart.

At the recent laying of the foundation stone, at a stadium to be built in Tripoli, the country’s capital, ahead of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations they are to host – assuming the war-torn country is peaceful enough – they named Franz Beckenbauer, who attended the ceremony as a guest, as an ambassador for the tournament.

Without question, ‘Der Kaizer’, whose achievements, as a player, coach and administrator, do not need to be chronicled in this column, has been an excellent ambassador for the German and European game.

But what exactly has Beckenbauer done, for the growth and promotion of African football, that he should be an ambassador to promote a Cup of Nations?

An ambassador, in order to adequately represent the ideals and values of his principal, certainly needs to have been a living part of those ideals and values. If he hasn’t, how would he be able to do the job effectively?

Unless Beckenbauer is a distinct part of the history of the Cup of Nations, in ways I am obviously unaware of, I am at a loss over why Libya believes he is an ideal person to promote the 2017 competition.

But before anyone assumes that I am taking pot shots at the German legend, the issue goes beyond his appointment.

It is about the unfortunate fact that the organisers of the 2017 competition fail to appreciate that they should pick an ambassador who represents the tradition and great history of the tournament.

Would you imagine Cameroon’s Roger Milla being asked to work as an ambassador to promote the European Championship, by a host country, when his international career has no association with the tournament? What sense would that make?

That Libya did not understand the importance of naming a distinguished ex-player, with global appeal and a record of achievement at the Cup of Nations, as a tournament ambassador, especially when there are several people that would fit the bill, indicates a poor sense of judgement.

And talking about a poor sense of judgement, it is very troubling that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has refused to acknowledge the fact that the unstable political atmosphere in the North African country ought to compel it to have a ‘Plan B’ for a 2017 host.

Although Hicham El-Amrani, CAF’s secretary-general, has said CAF is “not insensitive” to the unstable situation there – whatever that means – he did not disclose what the governing body would do, should the security situation in Libya deteriorate to a point that makes it, in their view, clearly unsafe to stage the tournament there.

I am assuming, of course, that the incident involving Egyptian coach Hossam El-Badri, shot in his Tripoli home late last year, whilst in charge of local club Ahly, can be regarded as being a minor problem?

As would be the shooting of Mohamed Al-Maghrabi, a Libyan international, who was hit in the arm by a sniper, just two days after the attack on Badri?

Or the kidnapping of the country’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan?

I guess that we’ll have to wait and see…

But what would happen if a host of FIFA or UEFA’s premier tournament were in a volatile state, similar to Libya’s, with barely three years left to prepare for the tournament?

And with no definite prospect of the situation improving?

I would say the answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Osasu Obayiuwana, a lawyer and BBC broadcaster, as well as the Associate Editor of NewAfrican magazine, is one of the world’s leading journalists on African football. His regular commentary on the state of the African game can also be read at footballisafrica.com. Contact him at moc.l1696197704labto1696197704ofdlr1696197704owedi1696197704sni@a1696197704nawui1696197704yabo.1696197704usaso1696197704

Osasu is also a member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination task force.