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On the eve of the CAN-2022 opening match in Cameroon, Indomitable Lions supporters are busy with final preparations. Between rush for Covid-19 screening tests, quest to buy tickets and the final push at the Olembe stadium, report in Yaoundé.
In Yaoundé, it’s time to party. Banners, flags and light garlands in the colors of Cameroon have multiplied in recent days to welcome the African Cup of Nations (CAN). The football competition begins on Sunday January 9 with a Home match for the Cameroonian Indomitable Lions who will face the Stallions of Burkina Faso.
For football fans, it is time to get busy with the final preparations because there is no question of missing this event, awaited so impatiently after several postponements due to a delay in the construction of infrastructure and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic is also forcing supporters to present proof of vaccination and a negative test to access the stages. Living in the United States, Joël came to spend a few weeks in his country. He will attend the opening match on Sunday. Saturday afternoon, he is therefore patient to do an antigen test at the city’s multipurpose sports center, one of the many testing sites approved by CAF.
“The government has put this obligation in place. It’s for our good so we do it even if it’s stressful,” he explains. “There is a two hour wait but it’s worth it to cheer on our Lions!”
And in the queues, you wear your cap, your vuvuzela or construction helmet decorated in the colors of Cameroon: everything is good to show your support for the Indomitable Lions. A few steps away, in this merry hubbub, street vendors even offer additional accessories for those in need.
Towards a CAN effect on vaccination?
A little away from this bustle, a small delegation is also being tested. Led by its president, Bertin Ebwellé, it is the collective of former Indomitable Lions who have come to set an example for their fellow citizens.
“We are there to encourage people to be tested and especially vaccinated. CAN can help put the pandemic behind us in Cameroon”, wants to believe a member of this delegation, a former international who was part of the epic of the 1990 World Cup, during which the Indomitable Lions had become the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals.
Football seems to be able to be a powerful incentive for vaccination. The doctors in charge of the medical site note that, in recent days, many Cameroonians have overcome their reluctance and agreed to be vaccinated, in order to attend matches.
After the test and the vaccination, there is still one ordeal for some supporters: finding tickets to attend matches. “It’s the real disaster. I did my tests but I don’t have tickets yet. I went to all the police stations where tickets are on sale. I called acquaintances so that they me. find one “, testifies Solange, coming from Switzerland, who intends to live with her daughter the opening match of the competition. “My car is full of Cameroonian flags. I don’t want to miss this.”
Workers and supporters
A few kilometers away, at Olembe stadium which will host the opening match on Sunday, the atmosphere is calmer. After having been for many months at the heart of controversies due to the many delays in the end of its construction, the organization can finally breathe. Especially since the stadium, architectural masterpiece of CAN-2022 is ready, even if, in the background, we can still guess the presence of work on certain ancillary elements of the complex.
Saturday afternoon, the workers who are completing the final work take a short break to greet the Cameroonian players, who have come for a final training session. The Indomitable Lions thus get back into their bus under the cheers of the fifty or so people gathered. As soon as the yellow, red and green bus disappears, everyone goes back to work.
“We came to encourage the players. We hope that they will ensure that the trophy does not leave Cameroon,” explains Stéphane Mekogo Eyenga, who has been training as a steward for a month. “We will be there to oversee the security during the matches and protect everyone who comes to the game from any confusion.”
Inside the stadium, everything is brand new. A few curious people came to take a preview of this ultra-modern enclosure. The gardeners are preparing the perfect lawn while the goal frames have not even been fitted yet. On the sides, workers are busy painting the props for the opening ceremony. In less than 24 hours, the setting will be ready to host the most beautiful competitions in African football.
From our special correspondent in Yaoundé