The African Nations Cup has kicked off yesterday, with tragedy striking a few days earlier when the Togo national squad was attacked by gunmen in the Angolan province of Cabinda. Unfortunately, two officials were killed, and the teams backup goalkeeper was shot and had to be airlifted to South Africa for emergency surgery. After withdrawing and then changing their minds and choosing to stay, the Togo national team finally decided to fly back to Togo on a government plane. Because of this, CAF, the continental football association for Africa has disqualified Togo from the tournament. There is a lot of debate revolving around this issue and why the incident happened in the first place. As Professor Simon Chadwick of the University of Coventry posted on his twitter account: “Still not sure why Togo team arrived in Angola by coach, driving thru dangerous territory, but left the country by plane.”
From a financial standpoint, I was wondering how the attacks and withdrawal of a nation from such a tournament would effect the attendance at matches. Angola kicked off against Mali, and were leading 4-0 with 15 minutes left, before crashing to a 4-4 draw in front 45,000 home supporters. While it was pretty obvious Angola would have a strong backing being the home team in the tournament, the big question would be whether anyone would show up to any of the other games, especially those in Cabinda where the attacks took place. Ivory Coast drew 0-0 against Burkina Faso in Cabinda earlier today, with an attendance of 5,000. Probably the biggest surprise was World Cup bound Algeria losing 3-0 to Malawi. The attendance for the Algeria-Malawi match: 1,000.
While the African Nations Cup is suppose to be the great celebration of African football, the attendance numbers so far seem to indicate that fans in Angola just aren’t interested in attending matches, or possibly can not afford to go. In either case, it would seem that this tournament may go down in history as being a disaster both because of the lack of security leading to the attacks on Togo, as well as the disinterest of fans in Angola. It’ll be curious to see what CAF does in the next few days to try and boost attendance, maybe even lure Togo back to play some matches as a sentimental favorite.
I wonder if these attendance numbers would have been any different if the attacks hadn’t taken place. It is possible that Angola was just the wrong choice for hosting a football tournament.