Nigerians decry AFCON final ticket hoarding, intimidation


By: Abiodun Adewale

The pain of Nigeria’s 2-1 loss against Ivory Coast in the final of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday was compounded by the harrowing experiences of some Nigerians who travelled to Abidjan to watch the final, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

In the wake of the defeat, some of the fans lamented their inability to get the match tickets while few of them, who were in the stadium, also shared their experiences  in the midst of the Ivorian fans.

As the 60,000 Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan was filled to capacity during the final, photojournalist, Latifat Adebayo-Ohio, raised an observation about the scantiness of Nigerian fans in the stands.

“The number of Nigerian supporter groups or fans is scantily distributed around the stadium. I hear that many of the Nigerian fans didn’t get tickets, or got refunded after paying for them and are now supporting from outside the stadium,” Adebayo-Ohio posted via X.

Ticket prices at the 2023 AFCON were sold for $1.60 to $24, depending on the category, with a limit of six tickets to one buyer. The case was, however, different for the final, as shared by the frustrated fans.

“Hearing that they are not selling Ivory Coast vs Nigeria final match tickets to Nigerians. The person trying to help me get tickets yesterday (Friday) came back to say she was refused sale because she used a Nigerian ID card. I hope this is not true,” a Nigerian fan, Suraj Olawale, said.

Olawale later confirmed paying exorbitant fees for the game.

“Finally got a ticket for the AFCON final after two days of intense efforts. Can’t even publicly say how much it cost to avoid family meeting. Next is finding where to check BP before going to the stadium.”

During the game, the few Nigerian fans admitted feeling the pressure from their Ivorian counterparts.

“What Ivory Coast did is very unfair, they held the ticket and failed to sell to Nigerians, we went through hell before we were able to get tickets for the match, they sold 90 per cent of the ticket to their home fans, they booed our players through the 90 minutes,” another fan Bosso Olamilekan lamented after the game.

“Nigerians in the stadium were not up to 1000 and the thousands of Ivorians were allowed to enter for free. Some were even threatening the few Nigerians in the stadium. Chants of boo and numerous mockery songs made the atmosphere so intimidating. It was more like war than football.”

In the wake of the outcries, a football administrator, Ayodeji Adegbenro, advised CAF to strengthen their online platforms for ticket sales.

“I think we can use the World Cup as a template. In Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022, I bought my match tickets in advance easily. But this AFCON, it was online and I tried but it wasn’t working so I didn’t bother again,” Gbenro told our correspondent.

“Fans can buy online and CAF can allocate to federations and sponsors. I guess these loopholes happen as a result of people buying in bulk from points of sales.

“The fact that Nigeria and hosts Ivory Coast qualified for the final also drove up the prices. I was in Egypt in 2019 and Cameroon in 2021 and there were no complaints. It’s a learning point for CAF, the online sale has to work.”