Félix-Houphouët-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan officially reopened on Saturday ahead of the Ivory Coast’s staging of the Africa Cup of Nations next year.
The stadium will be one of six host venues during the Cup of Nations, which is scheduled to take place from January 13 to February 11. The event had been due to take place in the summer of 2023 but it was pushed back to avoid the country’s rainy season in June and July.
Ahead of the tournament, Félix-Houphouët-Boigny Stadium has undergone extensive renovation work, with upgrades to the bowl structure, seating and pitch. Work on the project began in 2020 and the new-look stadium has a seating capacity of 29,000.
On Saturday, it hosted a friendly match between Ivory Coast and Morocco. The match, which served as a test event ahead of the Cup of Nations, ended 1-1 and attracted a crowd of more than 22,000. The stadium, which is commonly referred to as ‘Felicia’, is the oldest in the country having opened in 1964.
Félix-Houphouët-Boigny Stadium will host Group B matches during the Cup of Nations. The venue hosted the opening and final matches of the 1984 Cup of Nations, and was also used during the inaugural edition of the African Nations Championship, for which national teams must select players from their domestic leagues, in 2009.
Saturday’s match was attended by Idriss Yacine Diallo, the president of the Ivorian Football Federation (FIF), as well as officials from the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The stadium will host another test event later today (Tuesday) when Morocco welcomes South Africa in a friendly.
The most recent Cup of Nations took place in Cameroon in early 2022. During the tournament, eight people died following a crush at Olembe Stadium in Yaoundé.
Speaking to BBC Sport Africa ahead of next year’s tournament in the Ivory Coast, CAF president Patrice Motsepe said a “zero tolerance” approach will be taken to stadium safety during the event.
He said: “There’s a huge amount of focus because the safety of our spectators is crucial. When families come to watch a football match, they have to be absolutely assured that, from a CAF perspective and our partners’, we have done everything possible in line with global best practices to make sure that the facilities and the infrastructure are safe. There’s zero tolerance.”
Following the disaster at Olembe Stadium, the venue was cleared to host a semi-final and the final of Cup of Nations. It came after CAF received a report compiled by its safety and security department on the circumstances which led to the incident.
Addressing the tournament in Cameroon, Motsepe added: “Some mistakes were made, and some of those mistakes were avoidable. We’re very clear that the quality of infrastructure to host the top African competition has to be world-class. What we’re doing over the next few months is to make sure that the infrastructure in its totality is excellent.”
Last month, CAF announced that Morocco will stage the Cup of Nations in 2025, with the 2027 edition to be co-hosted by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The 2025 tournament had originally been due to take place in Guinea, but CAF withdrew the country’s hosting rights as its infrastructure and facilities were deemed not up to the required standard.