17 African Teams Forced Into Exile for 2026 World Cup Qualifiers Due to Poor Facilities

Nearly half of the African countries hosting the World Cup qualifiers next week are forced to organize their matches in neutral venues as the Confederation of African Football continues to crack down on substandard facilities. 17 out of the 43 countries scheduled to play a home match for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers starting Wednesday are prohibited from using their own stadiums because they do not meet the standards.

The list includes Kenya, one of the three countries designated to co-host the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) in 2027, and Benin, whose Cotonou stadium is in poor condition, less than two years after a major renovation. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has taken a firm stance on delayed facilities over the past two years, aiming to push countries to improve pitch conditions and other facilities such as dressing rooms and stadium lighting. While this has prompted some to take action and lead to stadium renovations, other countries have progressed slowly, if at all, and have lost the advantage of their home ground for competitive qualifications.

« We need to involve all stakeholders within the government, private sector, all those who claim to have football at heart, because there is no way to qualify for the World Cup by playing ten matches away. It’s not possible until we have fixed the stadiums, » said Namibian coach Collin Benjamin, who last played in the capital Windhoek in March 2021.

Morocco as an Interested Savior
Morocco is offering its assistance to many « homeless » countries as part of a charm offensive across the continent using football cooperation agreements. In addition to their own World Cup qualification match against Zambia in Agadir on Friday, eight others will be hosted in the North African kingdom next week. South Africa is also a preferred destination for countries in need of a venue, but stadium operators charge fees to football associations, further squeezing already tight budgets.

Benin, Congo, and Madagascar are the latest countries to be banned from using their stadiums. South Sudan, on the other hand, will end a long exile by playing at home in a newly built stadium in Juba during their Group B derby against their Sudanese neighbors next week.