The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) has performed an about-turn on its plans for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations with Al-Salam Stadium returning to replace Port Said Stadium as a venue for the national team tournament.
Egypt is facing a challenging schedule to deliver the Confederation of African Football’s showpiece event having only been announced as the new host of the tournament in January. The North African country replaced Cameroon, which was stripped of hosting rights in December amid delays in stadium construction.
The EFA last month confirmed that six venues – Cairo International Stadium, Air Force Stadium, Port Said Stadium, Ismailia Stadium, Suez Sport Stadium and Alexandria Stadium – would stage the tournament with the venues having since been closed to undergo improvements ahead of the event from June 21 to July 13.
Al-Salam Stadium (pictured) had originally been proposed as a host venue, only for the EFA to decide that its usage for games for two Cairo clubs, Al Ahly and El Entag Al Harby, would leave little time for improvements to be made.
The capital’s Air Force Stadium was therefore named instead, but Al-Salam Stadium is now set to return in place of the infamous Port Said Stadium. The venue was the scene of Egypt’s worst sporting disaster in 2012 when more than 70 people died after rioting at a league game between hosts Al Masry and Al Ahly.
The stadium has since undergone renovations and while Al Masry was allowed to return last year it will now no longer serve as a Cup of Nations venue. Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram said EFA chairman Hani Abo Rida made the announcement in comments on state television.
“Preparations for hosting the Africa Cup of Nations are on the right track and we hope the event will meet our expectations,” Abo Rida said. “Al-Salam Stadium returned to action to replace Port Said as a hosting venue for the Africa Cup due to construction problems.
“There is no intention to cancel the Egyptian Premier League tournament and the Egypt Cup due to hosting the 2019 AFCON.”