AFCON tickets given away
Bata - Organisers gave away free tickets to the African Cup of Nations semi-finals on Wednesday in an attempt to avoid the eyesore of empty stadiums at the continent's top tournament.
The first semi between Zambia and Ghana at Estadio de Bata was still nearly deserted as it kicked off in front of swathes of unoccupied red and blue seats.
Confederation of African Football spokesperson Ouattara Hego said schoolchildren and local businesses were handed an unspecified number of tickets for the Zambia-Ghana game in Bata and Ivory Coast-Mali in Libreville, Gabon, while fans who turned up on the day would be allowed in without paying.
Only a small number of spectators were attracted to Bata Stadium, however, while a torrential downpour at Stade de l'Amitie in Libreville made it only more unlikely that large numbers of fans would turn up for the second semi.
Filling the stadiums is a perennial problem at the African Cup of Nations, where matches not involving the host team are often almost deserted. Football supporters in Africa tend to be poorer and have a limited budget to spend on tickets for games not involving their favoured teams, while finding transport to games is also an issue.
"We asked the local organising committee to think of a solution for this because the stadiums have been empty," CAF's Hego said.
"The problem in Africa is the crowd. When your team is not playing, the people don't come. It's not just here, it's the same problem in other countries in Africa."
Hego had hoped as many as 15 000 fans might attend the Zambia-Ghana match at the 37 500-capacity Estadio de Bata and this "should create some atmosphere," but there was only a handful of supporters present alongside a small group of schoolchildren.