THE marketing and promotional campaigns of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations have been very big in Cameroon.
The moment you enter the country, it is difficult to miss the fact that the greatest African football showpiece, which started on January 9 and runs up to February 6, has taken centre stage in this Central African nation.
It is undoubted how football-crazy Cameroonians are. And why would they not be, considering the football pedigree their country has? They are five-time African champions, and only Egypt with seven titles, beats their standing as an African football giant.
Yet, as Afcon 2021 runs through its second week of action, the numbers of fans in the stadia has been so low and disappointing.
Lawrence Ndeke, a local journalist in Cameroon, said that Caf and the local organizing committee set strict guidelines that people can only watch the games in the stadium when they are vaccinated against Covid-19. In fact, the Caf general secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba said before the tournament started that fans who are unvaccinated would not be allowed at the games.
And as it appears, Cameroonians do not want to be vaccinated, according to Ndeke.
“Most do not believe there is Covid-19. So, they have no problem staying away from the Afcon games,” Nkede added.
Only six percent of the Cameroon population is vaccinated. That should also explain why masking is not a culture here, not to mention the poor emphasis on sanitizing before you can get into any public place.
However, it is not only the failure to get vaccinated that is keeping people away. For many Cameroonians, the tickets prices are exorbitant. The cheapest ticket goes for $7 (Shs 25,000). The most expensive is $17 (Shs 60,000).
Others cost $10 (Shs 37,000) and $14 (Shs 50,000). Ndeke said that such ticket prices are quite high for the locals. Instead, people watch the games in the comfort of their homes on TV.
Others go to the open parks where these games are broadcast live on giant screens, and viewing is for free. In addition, the kickoff times have also been unfavourable. The first games have been kicking off at 2pm Cameroon time, which is 4pm in Uganda.
The second games kick off at 5pm in Cameroon (7pm East African time) while the last games, have been on at 8pm in Cameroon, which is 10pm in Uganda. But the problem is that at 2pm in Cameroon, most people are still at work.
With the tough economics at play in Cameroon, and Africa at large, because of Covid-19, priority cannot be football but an income to sustain one’s family.