Libya plans to invest $314 million on building stadiums this year as it prepares to host the 2017 African Nations Cup, the deputy prime minister said, amid hopes that soccer can unify the country after its 2011 war.
"Just like Nelson Mandela unified South Africa, we hope to unify Libya under this cup," Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Awad Ibrahim Elbarasi said on Thursday.
"We will resume construction of these stadiums in June and have asked the government for a budget of 400 million dinars to build 11 stadiums this year."
Last month, Libya said it would use all its resources to ensure that it kept the right to host the 2017 finals.
The North African country had originally been scheduled to host the 2013 Nations Cup but precarious security saw it swap with South Africa, who had been down for the 2017 event.
Libya plans to build a new 60,000 seater stadium for the hosting of the 2017 African Nations Cup finals, Sports Minister Abdussalam Guaila told local media this month.
A second stadium for the tournament, seating 23,000 spectators, is planned for the coastal city of Misrata. Matches would also be held in the eastern city of Benghazi, Libya's second biggest city, the Libya news agency reported.
Hosting the African Nations Cup finals would allow Libya to demonstrate that life has returned to normal in the country and encourage investors, Elbarasi said.
He added that Libya's interior ministry was taking all necessary measures to ensure safety and security in the country, still awash with weapons left over from the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
"The security situation is exaggerated from reality. We're actually in a much better position than many of our neighbours," he said.
And there's some more positive news for Libyan football fans, with world soccer's governing body FIFA lifting ban on nation hosting soccer matches despite the North African country still facing precarious security issues after the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
FIFA confirmed in a statement the ban had been lifted, explaining: "FIFA has decided to re-authorize matches in Libya, thus the two (World Cup) qualifiers in June will be played in Tripoli and in Benghazi. We have aligned ourselves with CAF's decision."
CAF, the Confederation of African Football, said on March 28 it was authorising matches under their jurisdiction to be played in the country.
Libya will now meet Democratic Republic of Congo in Tripoli on June 7 and Togo in Benghazi on June 14 in Group I of the African World Cup qualifying competition.
Despite being forced to play away, Libya are unbeaten in their three qualifiers to date and have five points from a win and two draws. They are a point behind leaders Cameroon and one ahead of DR Congo. Togo are bottom with one point.