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Benin: Stade Mathieu Kérékou, an irritating downgrade

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Benin: Stade Mathieu Kérékou, an irritating downgrade

Cotonou’s Stade Mathieu Kérékou, the only approved stadium at the time, no longer meets FIFA standards. Although the Confederation of African Football warned the FBF of the stadium’s disapproval eight months ago, the work has not been carried out. And the Beninese public is up in arms against those in charge of sports.

 

The renovation of the 30,000-seat Stade de l’Amitié, due for completion in July 2021, cost around 13 billion FCFA. The renovation was the fruit of Sino-Beninese cooperation. The Mathieu Kérékou stadium has been much in demand for international matches, and even for the local championship. CAF chose the stadium for the Confederation Cup final between JS Kabylie and Raja Casablanca in July 2021.

“The downgrading of the Mathieu Kérékou stadium comes as no surprise”.

In addition, ASEC Mimosas and the Côte d’Ivoire national team played their home games in Cotonou during the period of stadium renovation in that country in the run-up to the CAN 2023. Benin also opened its doors to Burkina Faso’s senior women’s team, as well as to Rail Club de Kadiogo and AS Douane, both of whom will be competing in CAF interclub competitions in 2022. Niger and Mozambique used the same facilities. Two years later, the infrastructure was once again withdrawn from the list of FIFA-compliant stadiums.

“The news has undermined our morale, which was already at its lowest with our teams’ poor results.The decision angers our people, who no longer live for victory.The public will no longer be able to go and support the team, as it will be a long way from Cotonou, so we’ll be watching these matches on TV”, confides Olivier, a Cheetahs fan.

The decision comes as no surprise to Ambroise Zinsou, sports columnist and managing editor of Visa info in Benin. “The downgrading of the stadium comes as no surprise. Since the stadium was rehabilitated, CAF had made certain observations to bring it up to standard before the Confederation Cup final. Worst of all, during the match against Senegal and following the incidents that occurred during that match, CAF had already indicated its intention to suspend the stadium.”

What’s wrong with the stadium?

The downgrading follows a series of inspections of the stadium, including one by the CAF evaluation mission after the 1-1 draw with Senegal.During this match, there were injuries and two deaths due to pushing and shoving. As part of the investigations, CAF informed the FBF of the irregularities found.“This commission produced a report, and on July 23 we received a letter asking us to improve a certain number of things. On August 30, 2023, CAF officially informed us of the downgrading of the Mathieu Kérékou stadium,” said Claude Paqui, the federation’s general secretary, in an interview with Canal 3 Bénin.

“Among the facilities to be reviewed are the pitch, the changing rooms, the quality of floodlighting, match security, the press cabin and first aid through the treatment of officials. We shared the mail with the ministry in charge. Explanatory meetings were held, decisions were taken and some companies have already been targeted, but there were delays and we couldn’t manage the race against time,” explains Claude Paqui.

“We may have failed to surround ourselves with the right skills”.

Responsibility is shared between the various parties in charge of soccer and stadium management. Faced with criticism from the press and the public, Wilfried Léandre Houngbédji, Secretary General and Government Spokesman, also provided explanations for the downgrading of the stadium.“…It’s the people who originally built the stadium (the Chinese) who have come back to treat it. If there are any defects or faults, the specifications of the companies involved will show where the responsibilities lie. From that point on, subsequent decisions can be taken.In the meantime, let’s hope that what needs to be done now is done.

The Benin Football Federation and stakeholders have been unable to comply with the requirements despite being informed of the relinquishment eight months ago. “Perhaps the leaders failed to surround themselves with the right skills to save the furniture,” analyzes Ambroise Zinsou, who also believes that, in addition to bringing the stadium up to standard, “we need to think about building an ultramodern stadium outside Cotonou, since the GMK stadium’s proximity to the commercial hub currently under construction makes it impossible to operate.”

Pending the stadium’s completion, Benin’s next qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup have been moved to Côte d’Ivoire. The Cheetahs will face Rwanda’s Amavubi and Nigeria’s Supers Eagles on June 7 and 11, 2024 respectively, at the Stade Houphouët Boigny. Far from their home stadium, Stade Mathieu Kérékou.

Stade Mathieu Kérékou

L’article est apparu en premier sur Sport News Africa.

Source: sportnewsafrica.com

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