After a turbulent build-up, and still under a cloud of doubt, the Africa Cup of Nations finally gets underway in Cameroon on Sunday.
Both Cameroon and Burkina Faso national teams fine tuned their preparation on Saturday ahead of the opening game.
Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar said the team had to start the competition well if they wanted the Cameroonians to fully support the team.
“I know that Cameroon has been waiting for this competition. I think in terms of atmosphere there is no worries. We need to try hard to start the competition well. It’s how we play that will encourage the Cameroonian to fully support us, we are ready and I thing we will do it,” he said during a news conference.
This edition of the competition has been twice postponed, first in 2019 when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) found the country was not ready and took it to Egypt instead, and again last January because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cameroon had been awarded the finals in 2014 and built new stadiums in Bafoussam, Douala, Limbe and Yaounde but work on the showpiece Olembe Stadium in Yaounde have continued right up to the start of the tournament, proving a major source of concern and contention.
So worried were CAF about the readiness of the venue, plus Cameroon’s general organisational preparedness, that they held an emergency meeting last month to discuss cancelling the tournament.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and the potential impact it might have on the event was another source of concern but in the end it was decided, amid much disagreement, to go ahead.
Burkina Faso Forward Bertrand Traore said the team is well prepared despite the Covid measures because players are already used to them at club level.
“We have a well prepared team even though there were some difficulties due to the pandemic as the coach said, but it’s been a while now we started to get used to live with this pandemic in our clubs, so it’s not like we arrive here and we’ll start complaining. I think we are well prepared, we are expecting a game with a big atmosphere, we’re playing the host country, we are ready to start this competition,” he said.
The teams assistant coach however expressed concerns about the testing procedures which were not done according to the rules he understood.