25, January 2022
The Africa Cup of Nations is usually a moment of joy and friendship; a time when people from all parts of Africa and other continents of the globe come together to enjoy a major feast of football and camaraderie.
The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations has generated the same enthusiam and joy despite the presence of a global pandemic which has threatened to upend the event.
Another issue which called into question the ability of the country’s authority was the state of preparedness which caused the Confederation of African Football to move the 2019 AfCON to Egypt. This was really a black eye for a country that is known for its footballing prowess.
But Cameroon has succeeded to build the stadiums despite the delays and numerous doubts. The sports infrastructure is world-class and the population is once more developing faith in the country’s football authorities.
But many things are not going as planned. Some details were ignored during the preparatory phase and this negligence points to the fact that some lessons still need to be learned.
Prominent anong those lessons is crowd management which was not taken seriously during the preparations. The consequences of this weakness reared their ugly heads yesterday during the Cameroon – Comoros game which resulted in the death of some 16 people while more than 40 are still recovering in hospitals in the country’s capital, Yaounde.
The government understands how Cameroonians love football and with young Cameroonians seeking to be at the center of this moving feast of football, it was supposed to have taken the right crowd management measures.
Many roads were supposed to have been blocked to ensure that there were no massive gatherings around the Olembe Stadium. The organizers were supposed to have anticipated lots of things, especially the pouring of crowds to the center of action.
Besides, the crowd should have been advised that only those with tickets would have access to the stadium and more police officers or gendarmerie officers should have been deployed to ensure security did not deteriorate very fast.
These measures were not taken and many young men without tickets walked long distances to the stadium only to be told that they would not be allowed into the stadium.
The decision of the few police officers on duty caused the crowd to breach the security perimeter, resulting in a stampede that led to many people losing their lives.
Crowd management remains a lesson to be learned, but it is not the only lesson. Traffic management is also one issue which is blighting the lives of the residents of the country’s major cities and this is only getting worse during the football festival.
Town planning and the building of road infrastructure are major issues in Cameroon and these problems have gotten worse as the country’s national team keeps winning its games.
The road leading to the Olembe Stadium where the host country’s national team has been playing is unbelievable narrow and this is causing massive traffic problems and the CAF president had to have a taste of what many Yaounde residents deal with on a daily basis yesterday.
He was held in traffic for hours and he only got to the stadium ten minutes to the end of yesterday’s game. This is no good news and it clearly hurts the country’s reputation.
Traffic should have been controlled from Nlongkak, Essos or the Central Post Office to ensure that dignatories made their way to the stadium with relative ease.
The occurrence of this unfortunate situation demonstrates that some important details were ignored during the preparatory phase.
These unfortunate situations have generated lessons and these lessons must be taken seriously if similar situations must be avoided, especially as Cameroon has qualified for the next phase of the competition.
By Joachim Arrey