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Africa Cup of Nations organisers confident no repeat of Cameroon tragedy

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Africa Cup of Nations organisers in Ivory Coast believe their security measures for crowd control will prevent a repeat of the stadium tragedy last year in Cameroon (AFP)

All is on track for African football’s biennial showpiece, the Africa Cup of Nations, according to organisers in the Ivory Coast who are confident their security measures will prevent a repeat of the tragedy that overshadowed the 2022 edition in Cameroon.

 

Cote d’Ivoire may be one of the heavyweights in African football but this will be only the second time they host the finals, after 1984 when the tournament featured just eight teams instead of the 24 this time round.

The competition runs from January 13 to February 11 with Senegal defending the title they won for the first time after beating Egypt on penalties.

It retains its 2023 moniker despite the decision by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in July last year to postpone it from the original dates in the northern hemisphere summer owing to fears over staging matches during the rainy season.

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Around $1.5 billion has been invested which includes funding improved roads — principally a complete overhaul of the 350-kilometre coastal road which links Abidjan — the economic capital — to the port city of San Pedro, cutting in half the travel time between the two.

Aside from the external security risk posed by jihadists based in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, Ivorian authorities have moved to quell fears over crowd control which has been the source of most anxiety due to what happened in Yaounde two years ago.

The last-16 clash between hosts Cameroon and the Comoros resulted in eight dying and dozens injured due to a crush as home fans piled in to watch.

Youssouf Kouyate, director-general of the Ivory Coast police, told AFP they had measures in place for all six stadia to avoid a similar tragedy — with organisers expecting 1.5 million fans from outside the country.

“We are going to open the gates to the stadia very early, we will ensure the spectators form an orderly queue so they can enter the stadium without any trouble,” he said.

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“We are going to demand spectators come early.”

There will be some 17,000 soldiers and police deployed for the tournament and 2,500 stadium staff.

“It is after all not the first big sporting event Ivory Coast has had to organise,” said Kouyate.

“We hosted the Francophone Games (in 2017). We are calm.”

– ‘Fit for purpose’ –

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It was not so calm a few months ago when to the embarrassment of the organisers torrential rain flooded the pitch at the 60,000-capacity Ebimpe Olympic Stadium which had been specially constructed at enormous cost for the tournament.

The stadium is due to host 10 matches including the opening game between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau on January 13, and the final on February 11.

The authorities put it down to a freak downpour but all the same it resulted in Patrick Achi and Paulin Danho being removed from their posts as prime minister and sports minister respectively.

Achi’s successor Robert Beugre Mambe — who also assumed the role of sports minister — has been charged with “organising the most beautiful Africa Cup of Nations in history”.

Three months on from the shame of the flooding it appears under Mambe’s stewardship the pitch is now resistant to a similar catastrophe.

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“We were all disturbed by what we saw,” said Idriss Diallo, president of the Ivorian football federation, at the beginning of December whilst sitting in a stand at the stadium with rain tipping down.

“But the authorities took the matter in hand and the pitch has been completely relaid.”

“It is fit for purpose,” he added.

There have been concerns that the main stadium plus the five others to be used in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro, Bouake, San Pedro and Korhogo will become white elephants.

Organisers hope that the First Division teams — the majority of whom play in Abidjan — will attract larger crowds due to the proximity of the stadia.

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Diallo thinks there will also be a knock-on effect globally.

“Thanks to our stadia we will become a hub for teams in the region who do not have such facilities,” he said.

“Before they all went to play in Morocco, now they will come here.”

-AFP

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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AFCON

Nigeria’s AFCON 2025 fixtures almost in same pattern with World Cup qualifiers

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Confederation of African Football (CAF)  has now released the full fixtures of the qualifying series for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations.

The fixtures for the Nigerian team is almost in the same pattern with that of the 2026 World Cup qualification which has seen the Super Eagles wobbling.

Like that of the World Cup, the Super Eagles will begin their quest for qualifcation for AFCON with a home game in Uyo as they will host Benin Republic.

As it was in the World Cup, they will then head to Rwanda. Last November, their second match was played in Rwanda which hosted Zimbabwe home match. This time the Super Eagles will be facing Rwanda, the same team they will meet when the World Cup qualification series resume in March next year.

On Match Day 3, the Super Eagles will host Libya and will have the reverse fixture immediately after that of Match Day 3.

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Later they travel to Benin for Match Day 5 before hosting Rwanda on the last match day.

The Fixtures

  • September 2 – Nigeria vs Benin Republic; Libya vs Rwanda
  • September 6 – Rwanda vs Nigeria; Benin Republic vs Libya
  • October 11 – Nigeria vs Libya; Benin Republic vs Rwanda
  • October 16 – Libya vs Nigeria; Rwanda vs Benin Republic
  • November 11 – Benin Republic vs Nigeria; Rwanda vs Libya
  • November 15 – Nigeria vs Rwanda; Libya vs Benin Republic

The top two teams qualify for AFCON 2025

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AFCON

Rohr roars warning to Benin; Nigeria, Rwanda will not be easy

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

Former Nigeria manager, Gernot Rohr now handling Benin Republic has warned The Cheetahs of Benin not to expect an easy match when the team meet Rwanda and Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers later this month.

 Last month, he led his team to defeat both Rwanda and Nigeria in World Cup qualifying duels in Abidjan, where Benin Republic are compelled to play their home matches following inadequate facilities at home.

 Benin’s 1-0 defeat of Rwanda was Rohr’s first victory with the team. Days later, he followed up with a 2-1 defeat of Nigeria, the first Benin Republic victory in over 65 years.

 Those wins have put Benin in the frame of possible qualification for the World Cup. They are now to meet Nigeria and Rwanda again in World Cup qualifiers.

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 It won’t be easy, remarked Rohr.  Hear the Franco-German as he spoke in French but translated into English for the Sports Village Square: “From September we will play against Nigeria before facing Libya and Rwanda.  

“These are three difficult opponents.  We had already played Rwanda and Nigeria but be careful, it’s not because we won Rwanda and Nigeria that it will be easy matches.

“ We know that it is possible to achieve good performances again.  We know that Nigeria with its great players will want to take revenge against us.

“ I think it will probably be an interesting match in Uyo before continuing against Libya.  I suppose in Abidjan because in September the Mathieu Kerekou friendship stadium  will not be ready.  

“Everything will be decided in three months in September, October and November.  It’s a difficult group but it’s playable.  

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“You have to finish in the top two.  We had a team that is becoming solid, where the players are like brothers, accomplices.  I hope we will recover the players who were absent.  We are confident.”

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AFCON

Coaches react after intriguing Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers Draw

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The journey towards qualification to the  Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2025 shifted a gear higher on Thursday, after CAF officially conducted the draw of the qualifiers in Johannesburg South Africa.

A total of 48 nations will vie for the 24 places that will contests the 35th edition of Africa’s most prestigious competition.

This is what some of the coaches has to say in reaction to the draw outcomes.

Emerse Fae, Cote d’Ivoire coach

“I am satisfied because we are going to play against Zambia, a team that we know very well. In our last qualifying campaign, we lost against them. We know what mistakes to avoid.

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“I am also satisfied because I did not want to have countries geographically far from Cote d’Ivoire which will lessen the travel load. That said, in Africa, there are no longer small teams. All the teams will want to challenge us because we are the reigning champions”

Leslie Notši

“The draw is very interesting because when you have the host in your group, it means they qualify automatically for the tournament, and you have to double your efforts to secure the remaining qualification spot which will be contested by the three other teams in the group.

“We will work very hard to see to it that we are competitive side and try as much as we can to get maximum points in matches against countries that are with us in our group. It will be very important to do well in our home games and I know all eyes will be on “Morocco as the hosts and a powerhouse in our group. We will draw inspiration from recent games where we played the likes of Nigeria as well as Cote d’voire and were able to frustrate them”

Amir Abdou, Mauritania Coach

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“Quite a complicated draw. Egypt will be the big contender for qualification. They have a good track record that speaks volumes.

“Seven times African champions – that’s no small thing. We also have Cape Verde who eliminated us during the last AFCON.

“This team is made up of many quality players. We have Botswana, they are having a good qualifying campaign for the World Cup. We have a pretty strong group. It’s up to us to believe in ourselves. We will do everything we can to achieve our fourth participation in the AFCON”.

Kévin Nicaise, Chad coach

 “We are already having the reigning African champions facing the last qualified team in the FIFA rankings. These will definitely be very difficult matches played at high intensity. We will fight to defend our nation’s pride. The group remains relatively open, and we will approach these qualifications with humility and ambition”.

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 Badou Zaki, Niger coach

“We have every chance of qualifying. For me, Ghana is a football country with a team that is blessed with great professionals. But this is not the team of 5 or 6 years ago. Even at home, they can lose.

“Angola had a good showing at the last AFCON with their beautiful, modern and fast football. It’s a team that shook up the big teams in Cote d’Ivoire.

“I know Sudan very well. They are first in their World Cup qualifying group. They are going to be dangerous, but we know our strengths and we know we can go far”

-CAF

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