African Cup hands out free tickets for semis
Organizers gave away free tickets to the African Cup of Nations
semifinals on Wednesday in an attempt to avoid the eyesore of empty
stadiums at the continent’s top tournament.
The first semi between Zambia and Ghana at Estadio de Bata was
still nearly deserted as it kicked off in front of swathes of
unoccupied red and blue seats.
Confederation of African Football spokesman Ouattara Hego said
schoolchildren and local businesses were handed an unspecified
number of tickets for the Zambia-Ghana game in Bata and Ivory
Coast-Mali in Libreville, Gabon, while fans who turned up on the
day would be allowed in without paying.
Only a small number of spectators were attracted to Bata
Stadium, however, while a torrential downpour at Stade de l’Amitie
in Libreville made it only more unlikely that large numbers of fans
would turn up for the second semi.
Filling the stadiums is a perennial problem at the African Cup
of Nations, where matches not involving the host team are often
almost deserted. Football supporters in Africa tend to be poorer
and have a limited budget to spend on tickets for games not
involving their favored teams, while finding transport to games is
also an issue.
”We asked the local organizing committee to think of a solution
for this because the stadiums have been empty,” CAF’s Hego said.
”The problem in Africa is the crowd. When your team is not
playing, the people don’t come. It’s not just here, it’s the same
problem in other countries in Africa.”
Hego had hoped as many as 15,000 fans might attend the
Zambia-Ghana match at the 37,500-capacity Estadio de Bata and this
”should create some atmosphere,” but there was only a handful of
supporters present alongside a small group of schoolchildren.
AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed from Libreville,