Egypt will use the Cairo International Stadium, a military venue on the outskirts of the capital, plus the controversial Port Said Stadium among the six venues across five cities for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The venues for the new-look 24-team tournament were decided by the Egypt Football Association (EFA), who have also named Alexandria, Ismailia and Suez.
“We had initially proposed eight sites for the tournament but after an inspection by a Caf [Confederation of African Football] delegation, we chose only six,” EFA spokesman Ahmed Megahed said.
The Cairo International Stadium has remained largely unused since the Arab Spring and the subsequent restriction on attendance at football in Egypt.
But the iconic Cairo venue, which can hold up to 75 000 spectators and generate an intimidating atmosphere, is due to make a return, having been the site of three previous Nations Cup finals in 1974, 1986 and 2006 and numerous African Champions League deciders.
The Port Said Stadium achieved infamy in 2012 when more than 70 people died in Egypt’s worst sporting disaster after rioting at a league game between hosts Al Masry and Al Ahly.
The stadium was renovated after the disaster and Al Masry were only allowed to return there last year.
The Air Force Stadium in Cairo replaces Al Salam Stadium, which had been originally proposed but is being used to host matches of two Cairo clubs – Ahly and El Entag Al Harby.
With the local league only due to finish in the weeks before the Nations Cup kicks off on 21 June, there will be no time to spruce up that stadium for the tournament, Megahed explained.
“It was decided then to replace it with the Air Force Stadium, which is also called the June 30 Stadium,” he said.
The Alexandria Stadium and Ismailia Stadium both return as venues after also serving in 2006. The Suez Sports Stadium has a capacity of 27 000.
The organisers are yet to give details about which venue will host the semi-finals and final. Those are expected to be finalised before the 12 April draw in Cairo.
The Confederation of African Football chose Egypt in early January to take over as host of the 2019 finals from Cameroon.