According to CAF's specifications, Côte d'Ivoire was supposed to deliver the sports infrastructure for the 2023 AFCON by 30 June, in order to meet the deadline of "handing over the infrastructure six months before the competition". But on 30 June, D-day, nothing was done. Here are the reasons why.
A hiccup but nothing to raise an alarm. Côte d'Ivoire failed to hand over the keys to the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations stadiums on 30 June as promised. However, there is no cause for alarm among the Ivorian sporting and political authorities, who are continuing to work hard to put the finishing touches to these almost-finished jewels. If the stadiums have not been delivered, it is because many have not yet been approved.
Four stadiums to be tested
The Yamoussoukro and Bouaké stadiums were respectively approved on 3 June 2022 for the Côte d'Ivoire-Zambia match (day 1 of the qualifiers) and the Côte d'Ivoire-Comoros match on 24 March 2023 (day 3). This is not the case for the other four stadiums. These are the Ebimpé stadium, which has been closed for two years for work on the pitch, the San Pedro stadium, the Korhogo stadium and the Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium in Abidjan-Plateau, nicknamed "Félicia", which are not yet fully ready.
The Fédération Ivoirienne de Football (FIF), in agreement with the Office National des Sports (ONS), the Bureau National d'Etudes Techniques et de Développement (Bnetd) and Cocan, plans to test them over the coming months. The Korhogo stadium will be tested with the match against Lesotho on the final day of the 2023 African Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.The Ebimpé and Félicia stadiums will be tested against Morocco and another nation in a friendly in October.San Pedro "will no doubt be approved after a league match in September, for the resumption of League 1", according to a source at FIF.What remains to be done in these stadiums.
What remains to be done in these stadiums
Not much remains to be done on the playing turfs, according to Ivorian sports officials. To find out more, Sport News Africa spoke to the director of the ONS on Monday 3 July 2023. "We were supposed to be ready on 30 June but the rain made us reconsider everything. However, we're not worried because CAF has been omnipresent in Abidjan for months. Turf experts and others are even arriving last night (from Monday to Tuesday 4 July, editor's note) to make sure that everything is going well.We still have four stadiums to homologate. We obviously couldn't deliver them before testing them.Do you understand what I mean?I can assure you that there's not much left to do for all these pitches. Planting, industrial washing, paving, in short, there are just a few things left to do. One thing is certain, we'll be ready in time," Mariam Yoda told us, before dismissing out of hand any talk of homologation at the forthcoming CAF General Assembly scheduled for this July in Abidjan.
"CAF is coming to hold its AGM independently of the infrastructure work.Better still, we are not concerned by the other infrastructures, such as roads and hospitals. It's true that it's a package for the 2023 African Cup of Nations and that it would be ideal to deliver everything at the same time, but that's being handled by related structures. We're not involved in that. Our stadiums will be fine, with beautiful pitches," she concluded.
For another source, what Côte d'Ivoire has achieved is enormous in terms of performance. "I think that with the budget invested in this work, more than 760 million euros, it is clear that nobody will do better in sub-Saharan Africa in the future.No single country will be able to organise this competition on its own, because CAF and FIFA's requirements are such that the financial, material and human resources deployed are staggering. It will be difficult for a single nation to support all that from now on," says our contact in the Ivorian government.
Clearly, Côte d'Ivoire is on a roll and nothing seems to be stopping its march towards the competition scheduled for January 2024.