The 2017 Nations Cup hosts are ready to welcome the continent, with Gabon having the honour of holding African soccer’s flagship competition in January and February.
Despite political upheaval and social unrest during the course of the last year, the situation in Gabon seems to have settled somewhat and the country is set to write its name in the history books as a host nation after substituting in for politically unstable Libya.
Sixteen teams will be present in Gabon to fight for the right to be named African champion, with defending champs Cote D’Ivoire aiming to retain the title they won in 2015.
Gabon has the potential to be a great host nation, and the tournament will likely go down as a success in both sporting and hosting terms.
We look at 12 reasons why Gabon will be a successful host nation for the 2017 Nations Cup.
Source: BBCSport, ESPNFC, YahooSports.
This is an updated version of a slideshow that was originally published April 7, 2015.
Gabon has previously hosted the AFCON, or to be precise, co-hosted. The country co-hosted the Nations Cup in 2012, proving their ability to welcome the rest of Africa for the competition.
The Gabon national team has done well in recent years since gaining prominence at the 2012 AFCON which was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, and a strong national team that progresses far in the tournament keeps the home fans interested and gives a local flavour and passion to the competition.
The 2017 Nations Cup hosts are able to call on the services of 2015 African Player of the Year, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The striker is set to light up AFCON pitches if he is able to bring his club form at Borussia Dortmund to Nations Cup pitches, and that is a delightful thought for home fans.
As one of the co-hosts in 2012, Gabon did well to share the responsibilities of holding the tournament with Equatorial Guinea, but as their neighbours did in 2015, the 2017 competition will give Gabon the opportunity to prove that they can go it alone and do a great job.
Gabon can count on the Stade d’Angondje 40,000 capacity all-seater stadium in Libreville, and the 25,000 all-seater Stade de Franceville facility in Franceville at the 2017 Nations Cup. In addition to those, stadia in Port Gentil and Oyem are ready for hosting duties.
The local Gabonese fans are known to be friendly and accommodating, welcoming visitors and making them feel comfortable. Fans who travelled to the 2012 AFCON have many positive things to say about the Gabon fans, whose passion for their national team will keep things interesting during the tournament.
Following the riots and protests that broke out following the re-election of president Ali Bongo, security has been a major concern and focus for the nation ahead of the AFCON, and recent meetings with fellow African leaders have served to prepare security measures and quell the fears of visitors during the tournament.
Tourists visiting the country for the 2017 Nations Cup will not be restricted to soccer in terms of how they spend their days. There are many wonderful ways to spend time in Gabon, but perhaps one of the most memorable is to enjoy the wonders of nature at a place like the Ivindo National Park.
Those visiting Gabon during January will experience wonderful warm weather that will make their stay even more memorable. Temperatures will typically range between 75 and 86°F, with rain serving to cool the days and keep tourists refreshed.
Visitors to the country for the 2017 AFCON will have more than just football to keep them visually entertained, as the country is home to some beautiful scenery that tourists enjoy. Wonderful natural landscapes inland and gorgeous beaches will give those with cameras a great deal of photographic opportunities.
As is customary for tourists visiting somewhere new, the fans who travel to the 2017 AFCON will have the opportunity to sample the local cuisine and enjoy specialities which include bush meats such as antelope, wild boar and monkey, while a variety of fresh tropical fruit such as bananas, papayas, guavas, mangoes, pineapples and coconuts are plentiful and used to make delicious desserts.
Gabon produces a number of local products that visitors to the country will be able to enjoy and sample for the first time. Gabon’s Regab beer is an example, but there are many other products worth trying.