CAN 2024: Ivory Coast in turmoil before “its” final against Nigeria

On the official sales site, not a single ticket for the final is available

CAN 2024: Ivory Coast in turmoil before “its” final against Nigeria

On the official sales site, not a single ticket for the final is available. The 60,000 seats at the Alassane-Ouattara stadium in Ebimpé, where the final match of the African Cup of Nations (CAN) is being played on the evening of Sunday February 11, are gone. The Ivorian Elephants can win their third continental star at home so obviously, for several days, it was the race for the famous sesame. “It’s easier to find drugs than tickets for the CAN,” said a user on X (ex-Twitter) with humor.

If for previous meetings, supporters had the possibility of going to physical points of sale, even if it meant getting up at dawn and waiting all day for the precious card, the CAN Organizing Committee (Cocan) announced on Friday that tickets would only go on sale on its website, according to a random and capricious queuing system: the site displays a countdown which, when it reaches less than a minute, resumes from the beginning. For the disappointed, you can still obtain them on the black market via WhatsApp groups where the tickets are resold around ten times their purchase value - going from 10,000 CFA francs (15 euros) to 100,000 CFA francs (150 euros). ) -, and hoping that the same ticket was not sold to several customers. Taking advantage of the possible confusion, some would offer the places for Ivory Coast - Nigeria... played on January 18 in the group stage in the same stadium (the Super Eagles won 1-0).

The enthusiasm for the CAN continues to rise in the organizing country, after a brief decline at the time of the 4-0 defeat against Equatorial Guinea in the group stage on January 22. Supporters showed their anger by throwing stones at buses and gathering in front of the Ivorian team hotel and the headquarters of the Ivorian football federation. “We were discouraged,” remembers Ismaël A., 18, one of the protesters. We went to the shops to tear off the labels of the drinks which displayed the players' photos, we tore down the advertising signs bearing the image of footballers like Franck Kessié, Sébastien Haller, we were angry. » The match led to the departure of coach Jean-Louis Gasset, replaced by Emerse Faé, one of his deputies.

Mystical accents

The next day, Morocco's victory over Zambia (1-0) allowed the Ivorian team to be drafted at the last minute. “They are excused,” the young supporter now assures. Because the Elephants were able to react, eliminating against all odds Senegal, reigning champion, in the round of 16. “When Franck Kessié scored in the 86th minute (equalizing 1-1 and allowing Côte d'Ivoire to win on penalties), the explosion of joy that there was in the Yamoussoukro stadium where the match was being played… I’ve never seen that, remembers Dozilet Kpolo, founder of the specialized media Petits Poteaux. We have slipped into irrationality. »

When the Ivorian selection struggled in the group stage, the disappointed supporters blamed the wizards of Akradjo, a village supposed to have a decisive mystical influence on the CAN since 1992. But since the team returned to victory, these same supporters no longer hesitate to declare themselves blessed by God, whatever their religion, and even to give a Christ-like dimension to the “resurrection” of the Elephants. It is not uncommon to see, on the streets, outfits flocked with the slogans “God is Ivorian”, or on social networks, a representation of Jesus wearing an orange and white jersey.

In the stadiums too, enthusiasm is at its height. The victory in the semi-final against the DRC in the large Ebimpé stadium brought some heat back to this venue which sometimes seemed extinguished during the group matches. A momentum that even crosses oceans, since we still find “Benguists” on social networks, these Ivorians from the diaspora living in France, who are looking for tickets to return to watch the final in their country. “I have friends in this case,” assures Dozilet Kpolo, “who consider it unthinkable not to be in Ivory Coast when we have a chance of winning our third star at home. We are a very young population, many were not born in 1992 (when the CAN was first won). And then the team played in Senegal in 1992 and in Equatorial Guinea in 2015 (during the second victory), so we could only follow the victory on television. This extraordinary effervescence, I don’t know when we will experience it again. »

Good deals

For the final, some are very optimistic. “A taxi driver came to ask me to sew a third star on his jersey,” says Moumine Konaté, fashion designer in Cocody, a town in Abidjan. Their faith rediscovered for the Elephants, the supporters also started taking out their wallets again. Street vendors have swapped the paper tissues and phone cases they usually sell for tricolor flags or vuvuzelas; the jersey flocking stands are always full, and even the lêkês (popular sandals) are now worn in orange-white-green.

The owners of bars and maquis (street restaurants) know well that their turnover is directly linked to the performance of the Elephants. Rasmani Ouedraogo, a maquis manager in Ebimpé, the village which hosts the stadium, assures that his earnings are five times higher on match days. “When the team wins, the supporters like to do paiya (party and drink alcohol),” recognizes Betty, owner of the maquis En Famille, in one of the fanzones. Whatever the result, we have gone far in the competition, it is good for business. People have spent so much since CAN started in January! » In the event of a final victory, the party should continue until the early hours of the morning, and much more. “Monday, we don’t work, it’s a holiday,” want to believe the Ivorians, convinced that this final match will see the cup stay at home.