By John Kwoba
NAIROBI, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Four days after the cowardly terror attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, its effect is spiraling forcing the postponement of the Hockey Africa Nations Cup tournament.
The Africa Hockey Federation (AfHF) in consultation with the International Hockey Federation (FIH) have pushed back the tournament start date from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1 in Kenya's capital Nairobi.
FIH said it continues to access the situation in conjunction with its international security partner International Threat Management (ITM), an independent, specialist risk and security- related threats management consultancy firm.
"The AfHF is working closely with the KHU to ascertain the security situation in the Nairobi area from the National Security point of view. The knowledge gathered coupled with the information the participating teams will make available from their National Security Advisory perspective, has informed the position of the AfHF in going ahead with the staging of the competition," said a statement from AfHF.
The continental body also said that four countries have also withdrawn from the tournament citing security concerns and lack of funds.
Namibia, Nigeria and Seychelles will join another bigwig Egypt, who pulled out of the tournament a month ago because they could not get humble time to train back at home due to political uprising in Egypt.
This leaves South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya as the only teams who have confirmed participation.
"FIH and AfHF have jointly released the match schedule and the technical panel for the 2013 Edition of the Africa Cup for Nations Competition to be held in Nairobi," said the statement.
"The competition starts on Oct. 1 instead of the earlier planned date of Thursday (Sept. 26), due to the withdrawal of four nations in the men's competition and two nations in the women's competition.
"In the women's category, Ghana and Tanzania will set the stadium alive in the first match of the competition before hosts Kenya lock horns later in the afternoon with top seeds South Africa in both the women and men's competitions."
Both men and women's competitions will follow the one-pool league format. The two top teams will clash for the ultimate prize and the right to represent Africa at the 2014 FIH World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.
FIH also introduced new rules and regulations to be used in the tournament in Nairobi.
"It will be exciting to see how the players, the team officials and umpires will cope with these regulations. The prospects of a thrilling contest beckons," said Nashon Randiek, chairman Kenya Hockey Union (KHU).
This will be the second time that Kenya will be staging the tournament, having staged it back in 1995. Nairobi also hosted the Olympic qualifiers in 2007.
AfHF granted Kenya the rights to stage the tournament, after initially sanctioning Egypt. However, political tension and unrest in the land of Pharaohs has gifted Nairobi to be considered ahead of Johannesburg as the alternative host venue.
"It is an honour for us to edge out South Africa to stage this tournament. We have hosted before the Africa Club Championships and it is an honour to host this event. We are determined to make it a success," said Randiek.
South Africa have been dominating the men's African Cup of Nations for a long while now. They have won this event for the six consecutive times since cornering glory in the 1993 edition in Nairobi. Egypt have won it twice while Ghana won it once.
The men edition will be marking its tenth edition.
In the women's edition, now marking its seventh, South Africa have hold the sway, winning the championship for six consecutive times with Zimbabwe winning it once. But Kenya also stand a big chance to win, especially now that they are hosting the tournament.
The inaugural men's African Cup of Nations was held in Cairo, Egypt, where Ghana won the crown. The inaugural women's African Cup of Nations was held in Harare, Zimbabwe with the host claiming the title.
Bulawayo in Zimbabwe hosted the last tournament in 2011 with South Africa edging out Egypt 1-0 to claim the title in men's category. The women's title went to South Africa, who thumped Kenya 5-0.
Already Tanzania women's team arrived in Nairobi on Sunday ahead of all competing teams.
Kaushik Doshi, Secretary of the Tanzania Hockey Association, said the decision to travel to Nairobi as planned gives the team the opportunity to practice on the artificial turf, which they do not have in Tanzania and to put the team to the test with practice matches.