Soccer fever sweeps Cameroon capital ahead of Africa Cup of Nations

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Ambiana Samira and her sisters spent hours tracking down tickets for the Africa Cup of Nations’s first match in Cameroon’s capital, as growing excitement ahead of the continent’s top international soccer competition meant many vendors had run out.

The three women cheered when they finally secured tickets at a kiosk in Yaounde’s outer suburbs on Friday, guaranteeing them seats for Sunday’s opening match between Burkina Faso and Cameroon, which is hosting the tournament for the first time.

“Since this morning we’ve gone to all the booths,” the 21-year-old student said with relief, clutching her ticket.

Cameroon has had an anxious run-up to the championship with concerns raised over incomplete building works, security issues in some regions, and the threat of coronavirus outbreaks as large number of players and staff descend on the under-resourced country.

All spectators will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter stadiums – an encouragement for some soccer fans, including Samira and her family, to get the jab in recent days.

The flag-decked streets of Yaounde were buzzing with excitement on the Friday before kick-off, as an open-top bus toured the city centre with Cameroonian supporters dancing and tooting vuvuzelas.

“We are very proud to have organised this, you see we are in the streets to make the streets and the city beautiful,” said Ambassa Maurice, who was fixing flags of the 24 participating teams to lamp posts.

Traditionally one of Africa’s strongest soccer nations, Cameroon are this time viewed as more of an outside bet for a title they have won on five occasions, most recently in 2017.

At Yaounde’s brand new 60,000-capacity Olembe stadium, workers made checks ahead of Sunday’s game.

“We are very happy to welcome so many foreigners in our country, to have jewels such as our stadium here,” said its security officer Josue Sefty. “We are happy to host this event, it’s a great thing for us.”