Cairo, May 20: Egypt unveiled the mascot for next month's African Cup of Nations (AFCON), named "TUT" and adorned like an ancient Egyptian pharaoh.
"After a long journey, he is finally here. Say hi to our special host for the AFCON 2019," the Egyptian Football Association announced in a statement on Sunday.
In January, African football's governing body CAF announced that Egypt would host Africa's largest continental football tournament for the fifth time in its history.
The tournament, which will run from 21 June to 19 July, was initially scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon, though that country was stripped of its hosting rights amid concerns over the state of its preparations. Egypt was chosen as a replacement host, defeating sole rival South Africa by 16 votes to two.
The north African country has hosted the African Cup of Nations in 1957, 1974, 1986 and 2006, and has won the title on seven occasions.
This year's edition of the competition sees several major innovations, with the tournament expanded from 16 to 24 teams, and moved to the summer instead of its former January-February slot to reduce clashes with players' club commitments. The Egyptian Football Association (EFA) announced that the six stadiums to host the tournament have been shut for renovations.
The opening game of the AFCON will take place at the 74,100-seat Cairo Stadium, where the host nation will take on Zimbabwe. "It is a historic moment. Egypt is hosting the AFCON. This is a strong message that Egypt is safe and we have the capabilities to host such big tournaments," EFA official Magdi Abdel Ghani told Xinhua.
The former player added that Egypt's facilities are ready to host the AFCON, and that the country has great infrastructure and experience to organize Africa's largest soccer event, which will see an estimated one million people visit the country during the championship. (UNI)