Gabon distributes tickets in attempt to fill the stadiums

Gabon distributes tickets in attempt to fill the stadiums

Gabon distributes tickets in attempt to fill the stadiums

A fan cheers for Guinea during the African Cup of Nations match against Ghana at Franceville Stadium. The modern stadium in Libreville is never filled except the games of Gabon and the organizers are giving free tickets to adrress the issue. REUTERS photo

Free tickets are being offered in an attempt to fill up Gabon’s stadiums at the African Nations Cup but even that measure is failing to bring in spectators.

Organizers, concerned at a negative image caused by empty stands at matches not involving the home team, have been handing out tickets to encourage better attendance but with little success.

They will try again on Feb. 5 when Ghana and Tunisia meet in Franceville in the last of the quarterfinals.
“We are giving away free tickets to students and workers and also free transport,” said the home organising committee’s spokesman Louis-Claude Moundzieoud.

The other match in Libreville between the home team and Mali is over-subscribed. Gabon hosts two quarterfinals on Feb. 5, with the two games are in co-hosts Equatorial Guinea on Feb. 4.

Attendance has long been a Nations Cup problem. Few travelling fans attend, mostly government sponsored, but never enough to replicate the carnival-like atmosphere that hordes of Danish, Dutch or Irish fans have brought to past European Championships and World Cups. Travel costs in Africa are exorbitant and accommodation and other facilities minimal.

The fans who do attend show little enthusiasm for matches involving anyone but their home team. Gabon and Equatorial Guinea have played to packed stadiums but other games attracted few spectators.

If organizers find their offer does not work again in Franceville at the weekend, they might always try the military.

In 1994, hosts Tunisia were dumped out in the first round, causing mass disinterest in the rest of the tournament.

So when Nigeria beat Zambia in the final, a capacity audience was provided by thousands of uniformed conscripts.

Host Egypt also used soldiers to fill its empty stadiums in 2006.