"Four months! Who will do what, when? It seems like a suicide mission."
Those were the words of the Egyptian Football Association board members, as recalled by then-member and current TV anchor Seif Zaher, when they were told that Egypt will bid to host the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
In December 2018, Cameroon was stripped of the right to host the tournament due to delays in preparations and security concerns
Egypt and South Africa bid to host the event, with Egypt clinching the honours with 16 votes to just one for South Africa.
"We talked with the minister of sports and he assured us that we will be ready on time and the state has put all its capabilities behind us to make it happen. In four months we achieved what it takes several years by many countries to do and we hosted the most impressive edition of the African Cup," Zaher concluded.
Egypt held a lavish ceremony for the draw in April at the Pyramids of Giza, under the gaze of the Sphinx. The 20-minute opening ceremony not only took the world’s breath away but helped people appreciate African culture and Egyptian heritage and civilisation.
“Our time was so tight. We had to face all the challenges ahead, as hosts, with so much to be done in all aspects, including stadiums, tickets and the mascot," said Mohamed Fadl, the tournament director and head of Egypt’s organising committee.
“We had to go parallel while working on all those issues, including the renovation of the playing stadiums, training fields, selecting team hotels, selecting the volunteers, marketing and sponsorship issues, tickets, security and preparing for the draw ceremony,” he added.
In June, everything was ready. Egypt held another spectacular opening ceremony of the tournament on 21 June in front a feverish crowd that packed the iconic, 70-000 seat Cairo stadium.
"Egypt stunned the world. The continent’s flagship football competition was opened by a short but simple, symbolic and breathtaking ceremony that attracted the world’s eyes and deserved praise from football stakeholders all over the globe," read a statement from the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
This year’s version of the AFCON was the first to comprise 24 teams, up from 16 teams in 2017. It was also the first to be held in the summer.
Algeria lifted the trophy after beating Senegal 1-0 in the final on 19 July.
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