After arriving in Libreville on Friday night, I longed for one moment, to see the 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations roll off.
Indeed the moment did materialize the following day (Saturday, 14th January 2017) with the official kick off of the biennial championship in Gabon.
It was a wonderful opening ceremony with an eye catching performance from artists and traditional dancers at the beautiful Stade De L’Amitie.
As early as 11:00 a.m (1:00 p.m EAT), the fans had already entered the stadium and seated to avoid the last minute rush.
Earlier, I traveled down town to exchange my few dollars into local currency (Gabonese Francs) as well as get acquitted to the local humid local environment.
I also visited the vast beach off the Atlantic Ocean, just overlooking Hotel L’ Etoile D’or.
Encounter with the Africa and Cameroon Legend:
On Saturday morning, I met the former Cameroon goalkeeper Joseph Antoine ‘Jojo’ Bell.
For starters, Bell is a two time Africa Cup winner and Egyptian league winner in 1982, who also played for Cameroon at the 1982, 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cup.
He was named the Goalkeeper of the century for his sound achievements in between the goal posts for the numerous clubs and country.
At 62 years, he looked fresh and good to go with fond memories. I was glad when he mentioned that he looks at Uganda Cranes’ Dennis Onyango as one of those players he feels will light up the tournament.
I later learnt that he is one of the radio commentators for Radio France International, a job that earns him decent pennies off his retirement age.
As I traveled to the stadium to finish with the accreditation procedure, I happened to have seen the true beauty of Gabon and Libreville in particular (food for thought for our retired football stars).
Well tarmacked roads, some green and the beauty of the Ocean with a cool breeze caught my attention.
The accreditation process took me less than five minutes to my shock before I accessed the stadium.
Personally, I have been awed by the great media center and tribune at the stadium.
A thumbs up to the super-fast internet services by the organizers that has acted to further precipitate my work.
During the opening match between Gabon and Guinea Bissau, It was exciting to see two presidents. Gabon’s Ali Bongo Ondimba and José Mário Vaz of Guinea Bissau seated together watching a football game in a rare show of solidarity.
Interestingly, the opening two matches in Group A ended in a 1-1 stalemate.
Hosts Gabon succumbed to a late surge from Guine-Bissau and Burkina Faso rallied to earn a point off Cameroon.
Besides the technical glitches during the singing of the national anthems on the opening day, the first two match organization had less grey areas especially as regards fans entry, security, opening ceremony festivities, press conferences, media center facilities and the like.
Saturday night was spent at the Heliconia Hotel facility, just a stone throw from Stade De L’Amitie D’ Angondje in Libreville.
Meanwhile, the Uganda Cranes arrived in Libreville on Saturday before connecting to Port Gentil where Group D will be based.
The Uganda Cranes even trained at night in a bid to ensure early acclimatization to the humid weather.
Sunday’s action swings to FranceVille for the Group B matches. The Desert Foxes of Algeria take on the Warriors of Zimbabwe in the first match before Tunisia entertains Senegal
Perhaps, all my attention at the moment is to travel to Port Gentil and prepare for Uganda Cranes’ opener against Ghana Black Stars this Tuesday.
I can not wait.