The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has announced that stadium capacity for the forthcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon will be capped at 60% or 80%, depending on the teams involved in the respective matches.
The national team tournament is due to kick-off on Sunday and run through to February 6, having suffered multiple postponements. The 2021 AFCON was switched to January 2022 back in July 2020 due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The CAF said the event – which had already been moved from July to January of 2021 – would be shifted back a year because of postponements in the qualification campaign. The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations had originally been scheduled for June-July 2021, but earlier in 2020 it was decided to switch the 24-team tournament to January to avoid Cameroon’s rainy season.
CAF said the stadium capacity decision was taken following “extensive consultation” with the Cameroon government in the light of the health crisis and the challenges imposed by COVID-19. The 80% capacity will apply only during host nation matches, with the rest of the games capped at 60% capacity.
The AFCON will kick-off on Sunday at the new 60,000-seat Olembe Stadium (pictured) in Yaounde, with Cameroon taking on Burkina Faso. The CAF and Cameroon government last month agreed on strict health protocols that will be followed, including the fact that only vaccinated supporters will be allowed inside the venues.
CAF yesterday (Tuesday) said it will continue to monitor the situation and the “evolution of the health conditions”, and adapt measures if needs be.
Cameroon was initially given hosting rights to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in 2014, however a subsequent decision to expand the competition from 16 to 24 teams for the 2019 event led to significant infrastructure challenges for host nations.
Cameroon was stripped of hosting rights for 2019 amid delays in stadium construction and handed the 2021 tournament. Along with Olembe Stadium, Yaounde will also host games at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.
There are four other host cities for the tournament – Douala (Japoma Stadium), Garoua (Roumdé Adjia Stadium), Bafoussam (Kouekong Stadium) and Limbe (Limbe Omnisport Stadium).
Concerns over the readiness of stadia and issues caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have hit the headlines in recent weeks. Limbe Omnisport Stadium’s status as a host venue has been questioned amid issues over preparations and security concerns owing to the fact Limbe’s surrounding region has been hit by armed attacks since war broke out in 2017.
However, speaking during a last-minute inspection visit of AFCON venues, Secretary General in the Ministry of Sports and Physical Education, Joseph Yerima, cleared Limbe Omnisport Stadium for action.
“I believe that from what we have seen here, we are effectively ready to host the AFCON games,” Yerima said, according to the Cameroon Tribune newspaper. “Nonetheless, there are still some light touches to be done in order to have everything at its very best before the games kick off here in Limbe.”