CAIRO (AP) — Libya has withdrawn as host of the 2017 African Cup over security fears, the Confederation of African Football said Saturday, throwing organizers into a frantic rush to find a new venue.
CAF was informed of the decision on Friday when Libyan government and football federation officials met with CAF President Issa Hayatou in Cairo.
The African football body has now given countries until the end of September — barely a month — to submit applications to stage the continent's top tournament in Libya's place.
Libya was meant to host the African Cup in 2013 but asked South Africa to step in for it then because of security concerns, giving the north African country another four years to prepare. But Libya has continued to be wracked by violence since leader Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. It has seen some of its worst fighting in recent months, with militias battling in the capital, Tripoli, and the eastern city of Benghazi.
The Libyan delegation that traveled to CAF headquarters in Egypt to inform Hayatou of the decision to withdraw included the country's minister of sport and the president of the football federation. CAF gave the reason for the withdrawal as "the unstable security situation in the country."
Five countries had already been shortlisted as possible hosts for the 2019 and 2021 African Cups: Algeria, Cameroon, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Zambia. However, it's unclear if any of them would be ready to stage the 16-team event in just over two years. South Africa stood in at short notice for Libya last year using much of the infrastructure it had in place from hosting the 2010 World Cup, but it's unlikely that it will want to stand in again.
CAF will decide on the new host country next year.
"Considering the limited time left for the organization of the 2017 edition, the CAF Executive Committee will select a host country whose dossier guarantees that accommodation, transportation and hotels facilities, as well as training sites and stadiums already exist," CAF said in its statement.
The 2015 African Cup will be held in Morocco in January and February.