CAF boss Patrice Motsepe assures AFCON will avoid ‘painful experience’ of Cameroon

African football chief Patrice Motsepe insisted Friday he is confident this year’s Cup of Nations will not see any repeat of the kind of tragedy that marred the last tournament in Cameroon in 2022.

“I am satisfied the appropriate steps have been taken to make sure we will totally avoid the painful experience we had in Cameroon,” Motsepe, the president of the Confederation of African Football, told reporters in Abidjan on the eve of the opening game between hosts Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau.

Patrice Motsepe, the president of the Confederation of African Football
Patrice Motsepe, the president of the Confederation of African Football.
The legacy of the 2022 AFCON was scarred by the disaster at the Olembe Stadium in Yaounde, when eight people were killed and dozens more were injured in a crush and stampede prior to the last-16 match between Cameroon and the Comoros.

The Ivorian government has invested around $1.5 billion in improving infrastructure as it prepares to host the tournament for the first time since 1984.

That has included the construction of the 60,000-capacity Ebimpe Olympic Stadium, on the northern outskirts of Abidjan, which will host Saturday’s opening game as well as the final on February 11.

There will be some 17,000 police and soldiers deployed during the month-long tournament to ensure security.

“The Cameroon accident was absolutely avoidable,” admitted Motsepe, the South African who became CAF president in March 2021.

“For as long as I am president, whether I know or don’t know, whether I am aware or not aware, I ultimately have to take responsibility for anything that happens.

He added of Ivory Coast’s preparations: “I am satisfied that there is a huge amount of determination and commitment and I think we are on the right track.”

The 24-team tournament will see matches staged in six stadiums in five cities, with two venues in economic capital Abidjan and others in the capital Yamoussoukro, Bouake, San Pedro and Korhogo.

Meanwhile, the Ivorian football federation (FIF) has been planning how to address the concerns held by the likes of Professor Seraphin over the costly new stadiums’ future.

Having already hosted the Women’s African Champions League in November (in Bouake and San Pedro), the Ivorians want to become a regional hosting centre – particularly for those countries whose national stadiums are unable to host internationals on safety grounds.

It used 27 times for ‘home’ games by such countries in both 2023 Nations Cup and 2026 World Cup qualifying, Morocco has been a popular destination  but Ivory Coast now wants some of the action too.
“We’re going to ensure our country becomes the hub of West Africa in terms of football and sports competitions,” said FIF president Idriss Diallo, pointing out athletics tracks at some stadiums.

“This will offer a space to all countries which do not have infrastructure approved by the Confederation of African Football and Fifa.”

Although it is yet to be formally approved, a presentation that stadiums be opened to the public has been made by some within the government, arguing that a healthier population will reduce the burden on a state which introduced universal health coverage back then in 2019.


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