Most reports from Ghana at the African Nations Cup are effusive about the tournament, the country, and the fans enthusiasm at most games. Yet yesterday, it was a shame to read two separate stories lamenting the empty seats at many matches.
In the Guardian, Paul Doyle wrote:
I’ve been to two matches so far and though neither featured the hosts, Ghanaians have been generous in their support for the other teams. If the organisers had been equally generous in their ticket pricing (the cheapest is four cedis, or over US$4), the stadiums would have been packed. As it was, Accra’s Ohene Djan Stadium was little over half-full for Tuesday’s bout between a regal Ivory Coast side and the disappointingly tame Eagles of Mali. But still the noise was incredible.
And Reuters explains the difficulties for local fans, and offers a creative solution:
Tunisia coach Roger Lemerre believes that the empty stadiums are part of the African reality. Few locals can afford tickets, he says, and those who can are unlikely to want to spend hard-earned cash to watch two teams from distant countries.
The huge distances and lack of cheap flights make it almost impossible for ordinary fans from other countries to be present, apart from those who are flown in at the expense of their own governments or team sponsors.
“You just don’t get the travelling fans,” said Lemerre. “It’s a long way to come from South Africa and Morocco and, even if the supporters could get here, there is still the problem of accommodation.”
But could organisers try to find more creative solutions?
When the new stadium in Tamale, venue for the Group D matches, was officially inaugurated, fans were allowed in for free and the arena was so packed that all those under the age of 15 were asked to leave.
Allowing locals in for free instead of charging them up to a month’s salary for a seat seems an obvious option. After all, most of the flag-waving, drum-beating visiting fans you see at the Nations Cup are on all-expenses paid trips, while the media areas are also full on hangers-on. It would hardly be unfair to them.
As the knockout phase begins, one hopes we’ll see full stadiums enjoying what so far has been an extremely exciting tournament.