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African World Cup Qualifiers Face Venue Challenges

NEARLY half of the African countries hosting World Cup qualifiers over the next week are being forced to play their matches in neutral venues. This move comes as the Confederation of African Football (CAF) continues its strict stance on substandard facilities.

Out of 43 countries with scheduled home games in the qualification rounds for the 2026 World Cup between Wednesday and next Tuesday, 17 are barred from using their own stadiums. These stadiums have been deemed not up to standard.


This list includes Kenya, one of the three countries set to co-host the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2027, and Benin, whose stadium in Cotonou is already in disrepair less than two years after a major renovation.

CAF has taken a firm line on inadequate facilities over the past two years, aiming to push countries to improve pitch conditions and other amenities like changing rooms and stadium lighting.

While this approach has spurred some nations into action and led to stadium renovations, others have moved slowly or not at all, losing the home advantage for crucial qualifiers.

‘We have to get all stakeholders within the government, the private sector, everybody involved, everybody that says they’ve got soccer in their heart, because there is no way you’re going to qualify for the World Cup playing 10 matches away. It’s not possible until we fix the stadiums,’ Namibia coach Collin Benjamin told Reuters.

Namibia is among those affected, being forced to play their home games against Liberia on Wednesday and Tunisia on Sunday in neighbouring South Africa. They last played a match in the capital, Windhoek, in March 2021.

Morocco has stepped in to assist many of these ‘homeless’ countries as part of a charm offensive using football cooperation agreements. Alongside their own World Cup qualifier against Zambia in Agadir on Friday, Morocco will host eight additional matches over the next week.

South Africa is another preferred destination for countries needing a venue. However, stadium operators charge fees to the football associations, which cuts into already tight budgets.

Benin, Congo, and Madagascar are the latest countries banned from using home venues. On a positive note, South Sudan will end a lengthy exile by playing at home in a newly built stadium in Juba for their Group B derby with neighbours Sudan next week.

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