11, February 2024
Families of the victims of the Stade d’Olembe tragedy that took place during the last Africa Cup of Nations in Yaounde, Cameroon, have been invited to Sunday’s final in Abidjan, according to Confederation of African Football (CAF) president Patrice Motsepe during an address to review the ongoing AFCON.
At least eight people were killed and 38 were injured, seven seriously, in a crush that took place at the stadium before a round of 16 match between hosts Cameroon and Comoros during the last edition of the biennial continental competition on Jan. 24 2022.
It was determined that a “massive and late influx of supporters … caused the crush,” according to a government report, with security forces opening a gate outside the stadium to ease the over-crowding, which subsequently led to the tragedy.
“Some of the [victims’] family members from Cameroon are invited [to the AFCON final],” Motsepe began, “and will be with us here in Cote d’Ivoire.
“We visited each of their houses, met with their families, and expressed our condolences.”
Motsepe expressed confidence before the tournament began that measures in place around stadiums across the Ivory Coast would prevent a repeat incident during the ongoing tournament.
“The day after the final in Cameroon, we were in Cote d’Ivoire already to prepare for this following AFCON,” he added. “We had to identify what our failures and weaknesses were, and what the things were in Cameroon we had to improve.
“I’m happy that there’s been specific improvement, but despite all the precautionary measures you can take, there will always be unforeseen events. When you’re better prepared, you have a much better propensity to deal with these consequences.”
With the Ivorian government investing around $1.5 billion in tournament infrastructure, there has been no repeat of supporter deaths at the continent’s premier football event to date.
However, it hasn’t been an entirely smooth competition, with injuries suffered by media professionals travelling in a shuttle bus between Yamoussoukro and Abidjan one notable example.
For Motsepe, broadcast consistency, ticket sales and transport between the tournament venues are three clear areas of improvement that provide learnings from this year’s competition for future editions to come.
“We could have sold 150,000 tickets for the opening match, but there were empty seats,” the South African billionaire recalled. “My sponsors want to see value, and we want them to put more money in for the continent’s football development.
“Empty seats are not good for African people, but people bought up many tickets and then sold them at extortionate prices. This is one area that needs to improve.
“The broadcast of the game between Senegal and the Gambia was partly interrupted, and we can’t have that — there must be zero tolerance for any interruption or interference with the broadcast.
“There was also an instance where there was a [road] accident and our advice wasn’t followed.”
Despite these problems, Motsepe expressed his broader confidence that the tournament had been an overwhelming success, and a valuable testament to the state of African football under his premiership.
“This AFCON has been excellent, the best AFCON in the history of the competition,” he concluded. “We’ve had more than 180 countries worldwide, close to two billion people watching the football in Africa, and we should feel proud as Africans that we can produce such an exceptional competition.
“The next one must be even better, and the next one even better.”