34th AFCON kicks off in Abidjan as over 60,000 fans attend opening ceremony

Over 60,000 football fans gathered at Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to watch the colorful opening ceremony of the 34th African Cup of Nations, which is Africa’s greatest soccer fiesta.

In Abidjan, fans said they could hardly access the stadium due to a terrible traffic bottleneck. Both host citizens were stranded in their efforts to enter the venue on time, and local dance groups entertained visitors by the roadside.

Nigeria’s song princess, Yemi Alade, was among the artists who entertained at the opening ceremony. Others included Egyptian rapper Mohammed Ramadan and Ivorian music band Magic System.

President Alassane Ouattara told Africa that Ivory Coast was prepared to showcase the continent’s hospitality. The mascot, ‘Akwaba,’ meaning ‘Welcome,’ was on parade at the ceremony where African football dignitaries were also present. Akwaba was represented by the Elephant, as the national football team is called the Elephants of Ivory Coast.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the world was waiting for African talents to shine at the games.

CAF President Patrice Motsepe of South Africa said, “This will be the best-ever AFCON Games.”

The games are waiting for 24 nations to showcase their prowess in the continental spectacle.

The African Football Confederation (CAF) upgraded the prize for the AFCON games. The winner will take home $7 million or N6.2 billion; runners-up will pocket $4 million or N3.5 billion; two semifinalists will receive $2.5 million or N2.2 billion each, while four quarterfinalists will get $1.3 million or N1.1 billion each.

Some top players will be missing out due to injury or force majeure. They include Ivorian and Villarreal player Eric Bailly, and Wilfred Zaha, who was left out for political reasons; Nigeria’s Leicester defender Ndidi Wilfred, teammate Iheanacho who was in Abidjan, Victor Boniface; Ghana and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey is injured; Algeria’s duo of Said Benrahma (West Ham) and Amine Gouiri (Rennes), and the Cameroon trio of Bayern and Cameroon’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Captain Aboubakar, and Brentford winger Bryan Mbeumo.

The missing list also includes Mali’s Abdoulaye Doucoure of Everton, who decided to stay away, and his compatriot from Crystal Palace, Cheik Doucoure, who is injured.


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