In just a few hours the rest of Africa and the world will watch over as sixteen teams from across the continent take to the field to do battle for one title – the bragging rights to the 2017 Africa Cup of nations.
Hosts Gabon have assured of a beautiful tournament and are already welcoming participating teams to all four cities hosting the games.
Over the next one month, football lovers will witness an enormous display of football split across 32 games that would test the pulse of a continent whose only heartbeat lies in this sport.
Gabon is hosting the 31st edition without serial participants Nigeria, who missed out. But there will be plenty of action to look forward to as other contenders like Algeria, Senegal, Ghana and defending champions Ivory Coast, who are poised to make a good impression.
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As hosts, a lot of attention will be on Gabon to deliver not just a spectacular tournament but to also show pure class on the field.
That inspiration many in Gabon say, will come from 2nd Runner Up at the CAF Africa Player of the Year Awards, and Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A talismanic figure, he is expected to assume a towering figure as he carries the weight of a country so hungry for continental success, on his shoulders.
At the 38, 000-capacity Stade de I’Amitie in Libreville finishing touches were being made to the facility ahead of what is expected to be a grand opening ceremony on Saturday.
“In here, there is an appreciable sense of urgency as you can see the workers overdoing themselves to ensure every single hole is stitched, and every debris left unattended to,” said Africanews sports journalist Juliet Bawuah who is in Gabon.
Built by the Shangai Construction Group, the beautiful edifice hosted the 2012 AFCON finals, which Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea.
Over the next four weeks, it will witness more than one football match as Gabon, this time not sharing hosting rights with any country, will seek to create their own history.
“If you speak to the locals here, they tell you this is something they’ve been waiting for,” said Bawuah. “Enthusiasm is written all over the many corners and streets of the country.”