When football tournaments are to be staged anywhere, the lead up events that are used to whip up interest among football faithful include the official draw, the official anthem and the official mascot and logo of the tournament.
As Gabon readies to host Africa’s biggest football festival next year, the country has unveiled the official mascot for the tournament. A black panther called ‘Samba’ is the official mascot’s name.
The Mascot is seen sporting the Gabonese national colours, blue and yellow. Its name, ‘Samba,’ means ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’ in local Bantu language.
Football, like no other sport, creates a sense of unity, equality and inclusion.
APO (@APO_source) March 25, 2016
Whiles unveiling ‘Samba’ at an event in Franceville, Gabon today, the President of the country Omar Bongo was joined by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and also CAF president Alhaji Issah Hayatou, who were in the country for that purpose.
The black panther is a national symbol of Gabon and demonstrates the Central African nation’s long term commitment to environmental protection which includes creating a sanctuary for the some of the world’s most fragile species.
“I am thrilled today to see the Black Panthers play in this packed stadium where Gabonese from all walks of life are gathered to share their common passion for the game. Football, like no other sport, creates a sense of unity, equality and inclusion.
All of these are at the heart of my vision for a changing Gabon. It is a pleasure to welcome the new President of FIFA, on his first trip to Africa, to see for himself the great welcome our country will give all participants and visitors to next year’s tournament,” an elated Omar Bongo said.
The FIFA president who is on a three-leg visit to South Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti arrived in Gabon on Friday in time for the event.
Gabon will be hosting the continental tournament for the second time, having previously co-organised the competition with Equatorial Guinea in 2012.
The Central African country is currently constructing two stadiums in Port-Gentil and the northern town of Oyem for January’s tournament, with the capacity of 20,000 and 20,500 respectively.
Gabon will use four venues for the 16-team tournament, which will take place from 14 January to February 5, 2017 – these will be in Libreville, Franceville, Port Gentil and Oyem.