Schools out for Afcon: Cameroon’s drastic measures to get fans into stadiums

Dylan Bettencourt

Despite an exhilarating start to the Africa Cup of Nations, attendance at the tournament has been low. 

In an attempt to change this, the Cameroonian government has announced that all public-sector work and schools must come to an end by 2pm on matchdays. 

There have even been reports of officials standing outside stadiums before games handing out tickets for free.

They hope that these measures will encourage people to go and watch the games as the tournament heads into the knockout stages.

In the city of Buea in the south-west parts of Cameroon, where a devastating war between separatists and the army is raging, the town’s mayor has made attendance mandatory for the region’s council workers. 

Limbe, the city in which the stadium is situated, saw very few fans attend matches. But with the new regulations set out by the government, attendance has improved over the last few games. 

Covid-19 protocols may also be the reason behind low attendance rates. All spectators are required to present their vaccine passes in order to enter the stadium. 

However, Cameroon’s population is said to be only 2% fully vaccinated. 

For some fans, attending games and supporting their team was an opportunity they could not miss. 

Tamula Ernest, a father of three, gave up his job as a bricklayer to follow his beloved Cameroon through the tournament. 

“I follow the Lions when they train and play matches at the Olembe Stadium,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I went to Equatorial Guinea on my motorcycle for the 2015 Afcon. I did the same thing in Gabon in 2017 and now in Cameroon. I am living the dream.”

There are some fans meanwhile, who enjoy watching the games in fan zones instead of stadiums. 

“Here you just need some cash for drinks and you sit and enjoy the match. To go to the stadium, you need a match ticket, a vaccination card and a negative PCR test. That’s too much for me,” Jean Paul said. 

Ticket prices range from R75 to R450.

The host nation has indicated that stadium capacity is allowed to be around 60% but attendance has been nowhere near that figure. 

Image source: @TheGuardian


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