Bonface Orucho, bird story agency
Football enthusiasts from across the continent are gearing up for an electrifying kickoff as the countdown to AFCON 2023, one of Africa's most fiercely competitive football tournaments, nears its end.
Set in Cote d'Ivoire for the first time since 1984, the 34th edition of the action-packed tournament spans from Saturday, January 13 to February 11.
This 24-team showdown unites the continent's football elites, stars like Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah from English Premier League club Liverpool and Super Eagles' Victor Osimhen, recently honored as the best African male footballer by CAF. The clash of these titans promises enthralling entertainment for millions of global football fans.
Six stadiums across five cities—Abidjan, Bouake, Korogho, San Pedro, and Yamoussoukro—will be the battlegrounds for these intense matches.
Notably, four of the six stadiums are newly built and will host the tournament for the first time. These include the Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe, a 60,000-capacity arena that was inaugurated in 2020 as part of preparations for the upcoming fete.
The buzz around the competition is palpable, with CAF reporting soaring ticket sales, indicating its widespread appeal among fans in Cote d'Ivoire and beyond.
Following successful historic online ticket sales last November and over-the-counter sales a few weeks ago across major cities and towns in Cote d’Ivoire, CAF is undertaking the final phase of ticket sales for the tournament.
In a press statement on January 9, CAF explained that the final ticket-selling campaign targeted over-the-counter ticket sales in 12 cities and online via http://tickets.cafonline.com/AFCON. Ticket prices range from US $8 for Category 3, $16 for Category 2 and $24.
New World TV, the official broadcasting rights agency for CAF until 2025, has sublicensed several broadcasters.
Multichoice's latest announcement that SuperSport will broadcast all 52 matches is perhaps the most exciting news for millions of fans who will not make it to the pitch to watch the live matches in person.
Having secured broadcasting rights, SuperSport, one of the leading sports broadcasters on the continent, will air matches both on DStv and GOtv across more than 50 countries, potentially reaching more than 23 million subscribers.
New World TV will broadcast in over 16 countries; BeIN will cover the Northern African region; and Canal+ Group will cater to French-speaking Africa.
Other broadcasters that will air the action in Africa include South African broadcaster SABC, which secured a US$80 million broadcasting rights contract. Chinese broadcaster StarTimes also has rights for Anglophone and Lusophone countries, as announced in their statement.
Global television broadcast partners recently unveiled by CAF include Sky (United Kingdom), BBC (United Kingdom), LaLiga+ (Spain), SportItalia (Italy), Sport Digital (Germany and Switzerland), SportTV (Portugal), Viaplay (Nordics) and Band TV (Brazil).
With more than 45 free-to-air broadcasters in the loop, CAF anticipates the tournament will be broadcast in approximately 180 countries.
The 2023 AFCON is unique in many ways. Some of the continent’s finest stars will be making their last appearance in this year’s edition as younger, emerging players take over national team spots.
According to Sports Brief, a sports news platform, former Leicester forward Ahmed Musa of Nigeria, legendary Andre Ayew of Ghana and Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi are some household names that could be playing their last AFCON this year. Others include Ivorian Badra Ali Sangare and Yunis Abdelhamid of Morocco.
However, with players such as Vincent Aboubakar of Cameroon and Senegal’s Sadio Mane clashing, there is much action to be anticipated from the tournament.
The duo is part of CAF’s listing of the top 10 players to watch at the tournament. Others included in the list are Sehrou Guirassy of Guinea, 30-year-old Ivorian Sebastien Haller, Mohamed Amoura of Algeria, Victor Osimhen of Nigeria, Azzedine Ounahi from Morocco, Mohammed Kudus of Ghana, Mohamed Salah of Egypt, and Namibian Peter Shalulile.
The winning team will secure the largest-ever AFCON prize money, a hefty US$7 million—a 40% increase by CAF. The runners-up will now get US $4 million, while the second runners-up will receive US $2.5 million. All four quarter-finalists will be cushioned with US$1.3 million.
"I am confident that a portion of the prize money will contribute to developing football and benefit all stakeholders," says CAF President Patrice Motsepe in a statement.
The sponsorship portfolio for AFCON 2023 includes global partners such as PUMA, betting site 1xBET, VISA, Orange, and Rexona. Unilever, a global supplier of beauty and well-being products including personal care, home care, nutrition, and ice cream products, is the latest sponsorship addition.
The tournament kicks off with host Cote d’Ivoire facing Guinea-Bissau at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium, Abidjan, on Saturday, January 13, starting at 20:00 GMT.
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