Spotlight on Cotonou ahead of TotalEnergies Confederation Cup final on Saturday

cotonou-Benin

Through its history, architecture, and atmosphere, Stade de l’Amitie has over the years become an essential part of the soul of the city of Cotonou. 

But the stadium has had its problems historically including being deemed not fit to host top matches. 

A lot has changed since. 

The stadium has undergone a facelift and is now a ‘new home of football’. 

Apart from its frame, nothing of the old stadium has been preserved. Everything was changed including athletics track, benches, changing rooms, press booth, lights and even toilets. 

This convinced CAF to choose it as a host to the final of TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup between JS Kabylie and Raja Sporting Club. 

Closed since April 2019, the “General Mathieu Kerekou Friendship Stadium” is operational again, after 32 months of work and an investment of 13 billion FCFA.

Stade de l'amité

Small in size but big in heart, Benin, the West African state, is amazing with its uniqueness and the quality of its ‘gray matter’. The French philosopher Emmanuel once said of the country "Dahomey (former name of Benin) is the Latin Quarter of Africa”. 

This legend still fuels all sectors of public life today. In particular the Beninese sport which is gradually emancipating itself. 

It took until 2004 for Benin to participate in its very first Africa Cup of Nations. To date, Benin has four AFCON participations (2004, 2008, 2010 and 2019), capped with a quarter-final appearance in 2019 on Egyptian soil, with a breathtaking performance that amazed African football lovers. 

In recent years, Beninese football has undergone profound changes. Under the leadership of the president of the federation, Mathurin de Chacus, the domestic championship is active. 

ESAE club, winner of the Benin Cup in 2019, achieved a resounding feat in the Confederation Cup a year later. The Beninese club has eliminated two clubs whose training centers have established reputations, namely Salitas from Burkina Faso and Generation Foot from Senegal. 

2019-2020 year was exceptional for Benin football; ESAE was the first Beninese club to reach the group stage of a CAF competition. The last big performance for a Beninese club dates back to 1987, when the Ouémé Dragons reached the Cup Winners' Cup semi-final. 

Since 2016, a vast program of infrastructure construction has taken shape with the construction of 22 municipal sports stadiums which will soon be operational. The second phase of the program takes into account 17 other stages. 

This new dynamic project was spurred by President Patrice Talon who today places Benin on the list of good performers in terms of investments in sports infrastructure; the latest being the rehabilitation of the largest arena in the country, the Mathieu Kérékou Friendship Stadium. 

Stadium employees, players, licensees and supporters are finally seeing this essential renovation materialize to support The Squirrels in their progress.

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3 questions to the Stadium Director Mr. Aristide Codjogan

Aaristide Codjogan
"Everything is being done so that we can see a good final."

Can you show us the technical sheet or the new face of the Cotonou Friendship Stadium?

Today, the renovated General Mathieu Kerekou Stadium is a real gem of technology and quality. Launched in November 2018, the Mathieu Kerekou Stadium in Cotonou, is completely refurbished:

-       Lawn completely redone

-       Athletics track replaced

-       Renovated press room

-       Seats completely replaced in the stands

-       31 cameras installed for the entire security of the stadium

-       Fire safety system now functional

-       1 presidential room, 1 ministerial room, 2 VIP rooms.

You are hosting the final of the TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup. How are you preparing for the event here and how are relations with the CAF teams going?

I can say that everything is ready for a smooth running of the Confederation Cup final. It is a source of pride for me as Director General of the Benin Stadium Management Office to host this final on neutral ground which is a first in CAF history All of Africa and even the whole world will have their eyes riveted on Benin to scrutinize us and see our capacity for organization. But if CAF has entrusted us with this final, it is because it trusts us completely for the reception of this event. Our relations with the technical teams of CAF are very good and are going wonderfully like on music paper.

Saturday 10 July 2021 is a special day for your team. Did you plan special arrangements for the success of this final at home?

For this final, we can only have measurements at the size of the event. We have provided for the security plan with the presence of 450 republican police officers. In terms of health, the government has deployed several screening centers throughout the national territory to facilitate COVID tests for the 12,000 spectators planned. In addition, we have set up half a dozen infirmaries, 4 medical vehicles including two ambulances. In the event of an evacuation, we mobilized a medical team at the Cotonou National Hospital and University Center. Finally, I can reassure the VIPs and the other spectators that everything has been done to ensure that they attend a great final.