By Ihunanya Okoye
It has somehow become a cliche for football pundits to talk or write on the roles Football fans play in the outcome of games especially when teams play at home but the subject could not be overlooked in the final round of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers where staunch football fans played prominent roles in their teams’ qualification to the continental showpiece.
Once again, the torch light beamed on the home fans’ approach in their teams’ last round of 2019 AFCON games.
Indeed, the chants that reverberated in the 60,000 capacity national stadium in
Dares Salaam, Tanzania was deafening and at the same time contagious as it aided Taifa stars of Tanzania’s comprehensive victory over Uganda in the final round of AFCON qualifiers. The victory ensured Tanzania made it to the 2019 AFCON since 1980.
The mammoth crowd at the 80,000 capacity National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe which had the presence of president, Felix Tshisekedi of Zimbabwe and the tragic report of a fan that died due to a stampede prior to the final game between Zimbabwe and Congo Brazzaville spurred the hosts nicknamed the warriors triumph over their opponents and gain entry to the continental showpiece.
In Kinshasa, DR Congo ; the 80,000 capacity stade des martyrs was filled to the brim as the hosts rewarded the steadfastness of their fans with a slim victory over Liberia which was enough to seal their passage to the 2019 AFCON. The only goal China based Cedric Bakambu scored was greeted with a frenzy and gave the atmosphere an awesome look. The support of the fans made DR Congo hold on to the end.
In Sfax, Tunisia; the Mediterranean Knights of Libya had the full support of their fans who have the mixture of Libyans and Tunisians at the 25000 capacity stadium. The
fans chanted non – stop until all hope was lost for Libya to bounce back. The fans however went home disappointed. But, they genuinely showed unwavering solidarity for their team even in the face of defeat. It was equally obvious in the game that Libyan players wanted to reward the fans for their encouragement but it just could not work out. They succumbed to South Africa in the final AFCON game.
At the Stade De L’Amitie or Friendship Stadium in Cotonou, Benin Republic; the home team known as the Squirrels enjoyed the magical support of their faithful fans who gave them strength to overpower the Hawks of Togo.
The 10,000 capacity Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura, Burundi was not left out of the action as the frenzied fans watched in disbelief as their team reached the AFCON finals for the first time.
In summary, fans will forever play crucial roles in the success and continued development of football globally and without them, the wow – factor will be conspicuously missing in the round leather game.
Little wonder, teams who have few fans or those whose fans were banned from entering the stadium most times find it difficult to excel in games.