• Friday, March 01, 2024
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BusinessDay

The thrilling highs and sobering lows of hosting AFCON

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The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) – the pulse-racing football extravaganza that brings the continent together every two years. For the host nation, organizing this mammoth event is like embarking on a 90-minute rollercoaster ride – hang on tight for the high-octane twists and turns! For the fans and bettors, though, it’s just fun and enjoyment, especially with trusted bookies like www.betway.com.ng, review of which you can find at the link. Now let’s discuss all the pros and cons of hosting AFCON.

A Goal of a Start: The Tantalizing Promise

The starter’s whistle blows and we’re off! Hosting AFCON kicks off with the euphoric promise of new stadiums and infrastructure sprouting up quicker than mushrooms after rain. We’re talking a complete urban makeover – roads transforming from bumpy trails to silky highways, cities getting a fresh lick of paint and outdated facilities becoming state-of-the-art. Remember that worn-down municipal stadium from your childhood? It’s now a gleaming arena equipped to host athletic gods like Mo Salah.

Beyond the infrastructure boost, there’s the allure of an incoming tide of tourists ready to splash their cash and stimulate the economy. Vendors rub their hands greedily at the thought of the spending spree to come.

Job creation goes into overdrive too – it’s a tickets-for-all employment bonanza! From hospitality roles to construction gigs, everyone wants a piece of the AFCON pie. The promise of employment opportunities provides a sense of hope and anticipation across the workforce.

With the world’s spotlight turned on the host nation, it’s also a chance to sashay onto the global stage and flaunt culture and beauty. An opportunity as golden as the AFCON trophy itself! The tourism sector readies itself for the chance to showcase the country’s natural wonders, iconic landmarks, and rich traditions to captivated visitors from around the world.

Sliding into the Half-Time Break: Economical Reality Bites

But then come the sobering guts-and-gravy realities of hosting a tournament this huge.

That world-class new stadium you erected? It comes with a heart-stopping price tag that could make a finance minister faint. We’re talking budget-busting outlays for infrastructure, security and event operations. Constructing an olympic-grade arena can run into the billions – a massive investment that doesn’t always guarantee commensurate long-term returns.

And while the tourists and their sweet cash are temporarily in town, they’ll soon vanish quicker than a striker’s stepover move. The surge of visitors and their free-spending ways provides a short-term stimulus that rapidly dwindles once they depart after the final. It’s back to business as usual.

The jobs created are often as short-term as a penalty shootout. Positions in construction, hospitality and event management explode around tournament time but may fizzle out when the lights go down on the closing ceremony.

When the music stops and the final whistle blows, the extravagant new stadiums and facilities risk becoming white elephants eroding in the wind, as hollow and empty as the losing finalist’s trophy cabinet. Without a long-term strategy, expensive new infrastructure can become an underutilized burden on the public purse rather than an asset.

In the rush to develop infrastructure, local communities can get sidelined like a defender left in the dust by a skilful striker. Disgruntlement brews if the promised “grassroots football” fails to materialize. Development that bulldozes through existing neighborhoods without proper engagement with residents during the planning stages can leave a trail of embittered citizens, rather than community upliftment.

Kicking off the Second Half: Eyes on the Bigger Picture

Truth is, hosting AFCON is about more than just economic stats on a spreadsheet. Done right, it can be a catalyst for social development and unity.

The continent comes together, differences aside, to cheer on their champions. You’ll find a Nigerian sharing a meal with a Ghanaian, and Tunisians and Egyptians putting rivalries aside. The unifying power of football overcomes all. In the charged atmosphere of the stadiums or fan zones, you’re more likely to make friends than foes. Lines of nationalities blur as passionate fans come together under the singular identity of football lovers.

Cultural appreciation grows too. Who knew Guinea made such tantalizing cuisines? Or that Malian musicians were this talented? AFCON becomes a melting pot of music, food, fashion and art. A smorgasbord of cultural delights beckons. Locals beam with pride at the chance to highlight their country’s diverse creativity to an enthralled audience from across Africa and beyond.

If harnessed strategically, these social and cultural energies can have lasting nation-building impacts, long after the tournament spotlight dims. The memories made and relationships formed during the carnival atmosphere of AFCON can resonate for years, strengthening social fabric.

But a caution too – while football can unite, it can also divide. A surge in hooliganism, crime or social issues could derail progress and divide communities. Effective security, cultural sensitivity and social inclusion are key. Heavy-handed policing or exclusion of locals to profit from the tournament’s commercial spoils can breed resentment. A spirit of collaboration is crucial.

Environmental care is critical too in the thrust to develop. Avoiding white elephant stadiums comes down to sustainable planning and conservation. The crowds may one day leave, but the environmental impact endures. A responsible host must balance progress with care for its green resources and wildlife. Some infrastructure may boost tourism long-term, but other construction can irrevocably disrupt natural habitats if poorly planned.

The Final Whistle: Learning the Right Lessons

And there it is – AFCON’s 90 minutes are up! It’s been a rollercoaster ride – but like the best teams, host countries must keep their strategic shape when the gleeful chaos threatens to overwhelm.

The trophy unlocked is not just hosting a successful event, but leveraging it to bring lasting infrastructure, economic upliftment, social development and environmental care. It’s about investing in transport, housing, eco-friendly stadiums and skills development that improve people’s lives long after the spotlights switch off.

It’s thinking beyond just the Cup, to the community. Planning not for the short play, but for the long game. And scoring economic goals whilst avoiding fouls against people or planet. A true victory means creating a legacy that endures long after the football fiesta.

So as the fireworks fade and the fans trickle home after the epic AFCON final, remember – the real winner will be the nation that played the long game. The one who harnessed football’s unifying power to bring lasting national progress. A victory worthy of the roar of any championship-winning stadium!

The countries that reap AFCON’s lasting rewards are those who go beyond the tournament buzz, and leverage the event as a springboard for sustainable development. That convert short-term opportunities into long-term gain. And who balance grand ambitions with care for both people and environment.

It’s a high-press, fast-paced match. But host nations can emerge as champions if they keep their strategic composure. Eyes focused not just on the Cup, but on building an enduring legacy long after the final whistle blows.