Cameroon’s hosting of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations has received a major boost after Morocco threw its support behind next year’s finals.
The North African nation had positioned itself as a back-up venue after doubts arose about Cameroon’s ability to host.
On Tuesday, Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) president Faouzi Lekjaa tried to distance his organisation from such a stance.
“The kingdom (of Morocco) is alongside our Cameroonian friends,” he said.
“We wanted to put an end to rumours making rounds in the media for a while. The FMRF is at the disposal of the Cameroonian federation to make the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon an African football festival.
“So the rumours are over,” added Lekjaa.
The FMRF president was speaking at a symposium on African football organised by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) in Marrakech.
However, Cameroon will still have to convince Caf officials of its readiness to stage Africa’s flagship sporting event, with an inspection crew having undertaken a preliminary visit in January.
Cameroon’s preparations were thrown into sharp relief last year when Caf president Ahmad said that Cameroon had “work to do” to convince organisers that it is able to host the tournament.
The 2019 finals will be the first in Nations Cup history to feature 24 teams, after the tournament was expanded last year.
Dieudonne Happi, the president of the Normalisation Committee running Cameroon’s football federation (Fecafoot), was pictured alongside Lekjaa in a statement released by Caf.
“The relationship between the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya, and the King of Morocco has never suffered from any cold whatsoever,” he was quoted as saying.
“Moroccans and Cameroonians have always lived together in peace, harmony and solidarity.”
Leocadia Bongben, the BBC’s reporter in Yaounde, says Cameroonians are celebrating the news of the rapprochement, which comes after Morocco has become an increasingly powerful figure in the corridors of African football power.
“We are at your side today to put at your disposal all our devices, assets to make the 2019 Nations Cup, the first with 24 teams, an African football festival on the soil of our dear brother country and friend,” added Lekjaa.
Morocco hosted the African Nations Championship earlier this year and is also bidding to host the 2026 World Cup, with a decision on the successful bidder set for June.