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AFCON: Low discount, high interest and COVID checks | Football Stories

Yaounde, Cameroon – Tamula Ernest, a father of three, left his job as a builder to follow the Cameroon national football team, the “invincible lions”, at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).

They are happy not only because Cameroon eventually managed to take part in the tournament, which was highly suspicious due to the coronavirus epidemic, but also because the home team managed to knock.

“I’m glad the race is here,” Ernest told Al Jazeera, sitting on a motorcycle painted the colors of the Cameroon flag, outside the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo.

“I always follow the lions when they go to the gym and play at Olembe Stadium.

“It is my wish. I traveled by Equatorial Guinea by motorcycle [for the 2015 AFCON]. I did the same in Gabon [2017] and finally in Cameroon. I live in a dream. ”

Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Cameroon where 13,000 people came to play for Zimbabwe. [Daniel Ekonde/Al Jazeera]

But not all are as happy as Ernest.

Mamadou Sall, a 20-year-old man, is one of a group of Guinea fans who have gathered outside Yaounde Stadium to watch their team’s final match against Zimbabwe.

But its entry is delayed because it has to go through the COVID-19 protocol.

“It’s a shame that the game has already started and I’m still here,” Sall said. “I traveled all the way from Douala [233km, 145 miles] because of this game, and now I’m late because of COVID [protocol]. ”

The Covid-19 test and the COVID test also meant that Zimbabwe supporter Prosper Kadewere, who managed to get on the pitch, was happy on the sidelines without his family.

“I wanted to come here with my family but his circumstances [COVID rules] it was really tight. So I had to come on my own, ”said Kadewere. “This is a health problem that affects everyone, so we have to admit it.”

On that day, January 18, the stadium could hold 40,000 spectators, with just 13,000 fans in attendance.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced before the tournament that the availability of matches for the players does not exceed 80 percent while other teams reach 60 percent, with fans having to submit a vaccination certificate and PCR tests. results entering the stadium.

Cameroon AFCONFans of Yaounde [Daniel Ekonde/Al Jazeera]

In the meantime, outside the stadium, fan areas are on the rise.

Jean Paul, 36, prefers to watch the game instead of at home outside Yaounde.

“Here, you just need money to buy drinks, and you have to enjoy the game,” said Paul, watching the Cameroon and Cape Verde matches. “To get to the stadium, you need a sports ticket [prices range from $5 to $34], vaccination card and useless PCR test. That is a real relief. ”

For Odette Abega, who arrived at the stadium with her three children, the vibes and atmosphere were similar to those inside the stadium.

“There’s a big screen here. I laugh and enjoy the game here without anyone asking for a COVID test or a vaccination card. We Cameroonians love football, and we’ve made a way to watch the game outside the stadium.”

According to statistics and reports, only 2 percent of Cameroon’s population believe they have been vaccinated.

But Dr Eric Tandi, of the Yaounde Public Health Emergency Operations Center, told Al Jazeera that “since the government launched the latest vaccination campaign in December, there has been a slight increase in the number of people coming to get vaccinated”.

To encourage visitors to the stadium, the government announced on January 15 that schools and public services would be closed for 2pm on game days.

There were also reports that government officials had provided tickets and free transportation to sports stadiums.

Although signs and posters continue to promote the race in the cities where the event will take place, some Cameroonians agree with the fun of selling vuvuzelas.

“I sell a lot of things on game days, especially lions play,” 22-year-old Pierre, who spreads his wares around Yaounde, told Al Jazeera. “There was a lot of noise and vuvuzelas in the evening of the opening game [Cameroon vs Burkina Faso]. ”

Cameroon’s two victories and a draw in Group A also gave Thierry, a taxi driver in Yaounde, great confidence.

“Who the Comoros are [their opponents in the last-16] in front of Cameroon? “he asked beating his chest.” Cameroon does not know football [he says ironically] but we play with our hearts. That’s what you see on Monday. “

Thierry’s comments are in line with Cameroonian footballer Giovanni Wanneh, who believes Central Africans are unique in the game.

“In all three games, Cameroon have shown that they can score goals even if they are lagging behind,” Wanneh told Al Jazeera. “We have never seen Nigeria come from behind in the tournament. I think lions have the mental strength and depth to win this race. “

vuvuzelas are on sale in cameroonVuvuzela is on sale during the AFCON competition [Daniel Ekonde/Al Jazeera]

On the football field, Algeria defenders and four-time winners Ghana were eliminated in a number of setbacks.

Algeria finished unbeaten and the team entered the tournament after 34 unbeaten games.

Ghana, who won the final tournament in 1982, were eliminated by the first players in the Comoros.

“AFCON 2021 has reminded us that African football has no respect for parents,” African football expert Usher Komugisha told Al Jazeera. “It’s a competition in which the players who make their trades in the lower divisions in France surpass the team that has the best in the Premier League.”

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