Complaints about lack of facilities at the African Nations Cup in Equatorial Guinea and fears that newly-laid pitches will break up have dominated the build up to the tournament starting on Saturday.
A lack of hotel rooms, the standard of some of the accommodation, poor training facilities and a blazing sound system at the Estadio de Bata left several coaches seething and critical of the organisation.
But the Confederation of African Football have sought to cool tempers by reminding participants the tournament was moved to the tiny central African country just over two months ago and organisers have been working around the clock to try and ensure its success.
“This Nations Cup will not be a classic,” conceded secretary-general Hicham el Amrani. “In normal circumstances there would be four years to prepare for the tournament but this time we’ve had just 50 days.”
Equatorial Guinea, one of the continent’s smallest countries with widespread poverty in between ostentatious displays of its new-found oil wealth, stepped in as hosts after Morocco were stripped of the right to host the tournament.
Two teams have already changed hotels shortly after arrival in Bata – Congo because they did not have enough rooms and Burkina Faso because they found a large contingent of media in the same lodgings. Tunisia spent their first night in Ebebiyin without any electricity.
“Nothing was organised, some of my players and staff did not have rooms,” claimed Congo’s veteran coach Claude Le Roy, participating in a record-breaking eighth tournament.
He would likely have seen a lot in his time but the blazing sound system as singers prepared for the opening ceremony both drowned out and disrupted his team’s training at the stadium on the eve of Saturday’s opening match against the hosts.
“It makes me sad because none of my players have ever participated in a Nations Cup before and they were expecting something of a celebration. But since they arrived it has been chaos. They are asking themselves: ‘is this what the Nations Cup is about?’”
On Sunday and Monday, newly laid pitches in Ebebiyin and Mongomo will be tested with fears they could break up easily under the rigour of tournament. Consultants overseeing the laying of imported Spanish grass told reporters what would normally take months to bed down had had just on 30 days to take.
Training fields in Mongomo have been criticised by Senegal’s coach Alain Giresse who called them “sub-standard”.
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