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Hayatou rejects 'prejudice' against Africa

From Alex Thomas and Gary Morley, CNN
updated 7:16 PM EST, Sat February 9, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • African football chief Issa Hayatou says continent is ready to stage the Olympic Games
  • Hayatou says South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria could all be successful
  • He believes South Africa has done well hosting Africa Cup of Nations this month
  • Hayatou says 750,000 tickets sold so far is a record for the football tournament

Editor's note:

(CNN) -- Africa is ready to host the Olympic Games for the first time despite "prejudice" against its capabilities, claims the continent's top soccer official.

Issa Hayatou, who has been president of the Confederation of African Football since 1987, told CNN that several African countries could stage the four-yearly competition.

South Africa has already successfully hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010, the first African nation to do so, and Hayatou believes it can put on the other contender for the title of the planet's biggest sporting event.

"South Africa can definitely organize the Olympic Games, with its infrastructure, hotels, communications, transport," he said Saturday.

"I don't know if there are 10 countries in Europe that can be better than South Africa in that respect.

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"But there are other countries in Africa that can organize an Olympic Games like Morocco, Egypt, Algeria -- I could also include Nigeria. All those countries could organize it, but there's a prejudice -- they say, 'Oh, it's Africa, they can't organize it.' "

Read: AFCON referee suspended after semifinal errors

The 66-year-old believes South Africa has done a good job of hosting this month's Africa Cup of Nations football tournament despite some small crowds and substandard playing surfaces.

"The challenge was to have a successful Africa Cup of Nations because some people thought we couldn't succeed because South Africa isn't at the top of the sport at the moment," said the Cameroonian, a member of the International Olympic Committee and also a FIFA vice-president.

"But the organizing committee showed a lot of effort and did everything to ensure that this competition would go well. Of course, all the stadiums are not full, unlike what happened at the World Cup but for an Africa Cup of Nations I think we've had a record attendance level.

"We have sold just over 750,000 tickets which is a very good result."

However, African football journalist O.G. Molefe told CNN that the tournament has been slightly disappointing despite some of the top players on show.

"They had set an amount of 500,000 tickets to be sold for the tournament, but I still think it's not enough," said Molefe, a correspondent for the broadcaster eNCA.

"Look at a game like Nigeria-Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals, one that you would have thought would be a sellout -- but it wasn't. It shows there is a lot of work for CAF to do to fill stadiums for such a tournament."

Read: Burkina Faso star's suspension overturned

Sunday's title match in Johannesburg will be between two-time champions Nigeria and first-time finalists Burkina Faso.

Emmanuel Emenike, left, celebrates after putting Nigeria 1-0 ahead against Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa. Emmanuel Emenike, left, celebrates after putting Nigeria 1-0 ahead against Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
Nigerian joy
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Substitute Didier Drogba (left) celebrates with Yaya Toure after the midfielder put the Ivory Coast 2-0 ahead near the end of the Africa Cup of Nations Group D match against Tunisia in Rustenburg. Substitute Didier Drogba (left) celebrates with Yaya Toure after the midfielder put the Ivory Coast 2-0 ahead near the end of the Africa Cup of Nations Group D match against Tunisia in Rustenburg.
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The fabrication of players' ages continues to be a problem for football. One international -- Democratic Republic of Congo defender Chancel Mbemba Mangulu -- has "four different birthdays". The fabrication of players' ages continues to be a problem for football. One international -- Democratic Republic of Congo defender Chancel Mbemba Mangulu -- has "four different birthdays".
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"It's a competition that's created a lot of surprises," Hayatou said. "If I'm honest Nigeria is a big football team but Burkina Faso never reached that level before.

"So although it's a surprise it's a good surprise because Nigeria and Burkina have produced a good quality of football and that's been satisfying to see. If they show us in the final what we saw in the quarterfinals and the semifinals it will be a very beautiful final that the whole world will enjoy."

Molefe said Nigeria's "Super Eagles" had done well to reach their first final since losing on home soil in 2000, with coach Stephen Keshi leaving out several big-name Europe-based players for the tournament.

"I don't think many people would have predicted that the Super Eagles would get to the final," he said.

"To have reached this stage has been a big surprise but they've got a lot of great players who have played very well. Not a lot of people gave them a chance of beating the Ivory Coast."

Read: FIFA investigating age fraud

Keshi is waiting until the last minute to decide on the fitness of four-goal Emmanuel Emenike and Victor Moses, who has netted twice in the tournament, after the key forward duo suffered injuries in the semifinal win over Mali.

The Burkinabe have been boosted by the rescinding of Jonathan Pitroipa's sending-off against Ghana, with officials admitting he should not have received a second booking.

At the beginning of the tournament it was Cape Verde being the fairytale story but now it's moved to Burkina Faso," Molefe said.

"They've done well to reach this point. I think with Jonathan Pitroipa coming back to play the final after getting that red card it's going to be a big motivation for them to go out and pull off a big upset."

Meanwhile, Mali claimed third place for the second year in a row after beating Ghana 3-1 in a rematch of the 2012 playoff.

Mali led 2-0 through a diving header by Mahamadou Samassa and Seydou Keita's third goal of the tournament, but Ghana's Wakaso Mubarak missed the chance to net his fifth when he blazed a 58th-minute penalty over the bar in the pouring rain at Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

The Black Stars, who won the last of their four African titles in 1982, got back into the game in the 82nd minute when Mali goalkeeper Soumbeïla Diakite was completely wrongfooted by a speculative long-range shot by Kwadwo Asamoah.

However, substitute Sigamary Diarra settled the match in time added on to give some cheer to a country embroiled in conflict between Islamist rebel forces, government troops and the French military.

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