11.04.2005 Football News

Unholy row for 2008 Nations Cup hosts

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It is often said that in Africa, football is a religion.

However, plans to build a new stadium in the Ghanaian city of Sekondi in anticipation of hosting matches at the 2008 African Cup of Nations have pitched football and religion against each other.

Ghanaian authorities say they need to demolish Sekondi's Gyandu Park stadium before they are able to build another on the site.

Although the plans to build the new stadium will signal the demolition of a nearby cinema and some bars, the stiffest resistance has come from worshippers at the city's main mosque.

"We started building this mosque in 1975. It has taken us over 25 years to finish it and finally start worshipping there," Mohammed Muta of the Sekondi Mosque Committee told BBC Sport.

Ghana to build new stadia

"And then we are told they are going to demolish it to build a stadium. We are very angry."

"When the authorities realised the strength of our anger at their plans, they offered to build a new mosque providing we find a new site."

On the streets of Sekondi, opinion is divided over the planned new stadium.

"They have many places to pray," said one resident. "When the place is demolished, they can go somewhere else to worship."

Sekondi's Gyandu Park stadium is in desperate need of development

Another suggested the new stadium "will help our tourism, our hotels and the influx of visitors will bring money to the city. This city will be a different place as we will get better roads, hotels and telecommunications centres".

Even some Muslims accepted that in the name of progress, the mosque would need to be demolished.

"Even if they demolish it, there will be another one built," said one local worshipper.

One man who believes that building the stadium will bring many benefits to the city is Phillip Nkrumah, the Metropolitan Chief Executive of Takoradi-Sekondi.

"There have been a lot of discussions with mosque elders over this matter," Nkrumah told BBC Sport.

"They have agreed that the mosque should be knocked down, but only on the condition that we build them a new one."

It has taken over 25 years to finish it and finally start worshipping there

Mohammed Muta, of the Sekondi Mosque Committee

"We have asked them to submit building plans for the new mosque and they are working on it."

The Chief Executive added that authorities are conscious that they need to build the mosque near to where most of the worshippers live.

"We expect everybody to be happy with the outcome," he volunteered optimistically.

The problems in Sekondi are not the only ones facing the organisers.

Ghana prepares for 2008

With less than three years to go before the Nations Cup, more optimism than plans seemed to be in evidence concerning the hosting of Africa's premier sporting event.

Confusion still reigns over who will secure the contract for the construction work, and an announcement has yet to be made.

The three proposed sites in Kumasi, Accra and Tamale show no evidence of construction, and during a visit to the latter site squatters could be seen making their own bricks on the the site for their own use.

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