Tournament chief sees no bumps in Cup of Nations legacy in Gabon

Libreville (AFP) – Stadiums built in Gabon for the Africa Cup of Nations are an “excellent legacy” for the country, the Confederation of African Football’s general secretary Hicham El Amrani told AFP on Saturday.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s final in Libreville between Egypt and Cameroon, El Amrani insisted the Cup of Nations had been a success despite poor attendances and bumpy pitches having a negative impact on the quality of football.

“It has been positive. Obviously there are some negatives that we regret, in particular the quality of one of the pitches,” El Amrani said in reference to the surface in the port city of Port-Gentil, where a new stadium was opened for the tournament.

Before Saturday’s third-place play-off between Ghana and Burkina Faso there, seven games there had yielded just nine goals and caused several injuries. 

“But even if the pitch at Port-Gentil was not fitting for this tournament, it will be in future. It is an excellent legacy for Gabon to have such stadiums,” declared El Amrani. 

“We are also satisfied with the level of football. There are really no little teams anymore. 

“Guinea-Bissau were participating for the first time and performed quite remarkably. And then there will be an historic final between Egypt and Cameroon.”

He added: “In terms of the economic benefits, they are better than the last tournament according to estimations.”

In reference to attendances, El Amrani refused to credit suggestions that crowds were hit by boycott calls from elements of the opposition to President Ali Bongo.

“We would have liked to see bigger crowds at certain matches,” he said. 

“The presence of supporters is not linked to the price of tickets or as I have heard to the (political) opposition, because we don’t interfere in the internal affairs of Gabon.

“It is however linked to transport problems. Certain stadiums like in Oyem and Franceville are difficult to access and when there is no public transport for 15-20,000 spectators, it is not easy.”

El Amrani added that lessons had been learned ahead of the next Cup of Nations, which will be held in Cameroon in 2019.

“We are working for the future to provide entertainment around the matches, as well as the fan zones we want to put in place in Cameroon.

“We need to look after the pitches better ahead of the tournament. 

“We are already in contact with the local organising committee in Cameroon. Two years pass very quickly.”

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