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Gabon to host Africa Cup of Nations 2017

Côte d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara and team captain Yaya Touré bring the 2015 CAN trophy to Abidjan
Côte d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara and team captain Yaya Touré bring the 2015 CAN trophy to Abidjan Reuters/Thierry Gouegnon

Gabon was selected on Wednesday afternoon as the host for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. It's the first time that the country will be sole organiser. Three years ago it was co-host with Equatorial Guinea.

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In 2012 the capital Libreville and the town of Franceville were used for the group stages of the competition. 

The Stade de l'Amitié in Libreville was the venue for the final won by Zambia. 

Click here for our coverage of Africa Cup of Nations 2015

Executives at the continental game's ruling body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF), will hope that the organisation of the event runs more smoothly than the last competition in Equatorial Guinea at the start of 2015. 

The tournament was initially scheduled to be hosted by Morocco. But the organisers there asked for the event to be postponed because of their fears over the spread of the Ebola epidemic in west Africa, which had claimed more than 7,000 lives. 

CAF declined the request and the organisation's executives decided to replace Morocco and its team with Equatorial Guinea. 

Despite the switch two months before the kick-off, the tournament in Equatorial Guinea passed without too many hitches except for the nightmarish semi-final clash between Equatorial Guina and Ghana where Equatorial Guinean fans hurled missiles at the Ghana supporters as well as the players on the field. 

On Wednesday an official from the Gabonese football Federation official said matches would again be staged in Libreville and Franceville. 

Port Gentil and Oyem will be the other venues for the month long extravaganza involving 16 teams.

Ghana had been strongly tipped to win the right to host the 2017 competition.

The belief was that since the Francophone countries of Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon and Guinea were organising the next three events, an Anglophone nation would have the chance this time around. 

Maurice Quansah, a sports columnist at the Accra based Daily Graphic, told RFI that Ghanaians weren't too upset that the country failed to win the bid. 

"The disappointment isn't that profound," he said. "Ghana is going through its own economic hardships, so football and the African Cup of Nations has been put on the back burner. And there's also a feeling that the legacies from the last time we hosted it in 2008 have been abused. And Ghanaians suspect it would have been another waste of money.

"The hope was that 2008 was going to revive domestic football and all the projects and all the fine words have not been implemented or materialised, so for many another Cup of Nations would have been money down the drain." 

Qansah said the main ambitions of football fans in the country was to see the side do well in major tournaments. 

"It's now taken as a given that Ghana qualifies for big events such as the Cup of Nations or the World Cup, it's happened three times on the trot for the Black Stars at both events and they were beaten finalists at the Cup of Nations a few months ago in Equatorial Guinea," he pointed out.

The choice of Gabon ended a 1,529-day saga over who would host the next edition of the biennial African football showpiece. 

South Africa were selected as 2017 hosts four years ago but then traded tournaments with the 2013 organisers Libya because of violence in the country following the toppling of Moamer Kadhafi. 

With the country still racked by insecurity, they were forced to withdraw as 2017 hosts as well. 

Gabon President Ali Bongo tweeted that he was delighted with the choice of his country. Who will play there in two years will be decided between June 2015 and September 2016. 

Thirteen groups comprising four teams will fight it out. The group winners and the best two second placed sides will vye to succeed Côte d'Ivoire as continental champions. 

The Ivorians have been drawn in Group I along with Sudan and Sierra Leone while the 2015 runners up Ghana have been placed in Group H with Mauritius, Mozambique and Rwanda.

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