Bouake – From war-torn streets to the glittering stage of TotalEnergies CAF AFCON

CAF Sponsor Branding TotalEnergies during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Angola and Namibia held at Peace Stadium in Bouake, Cote dIvoire on 27 January 2024 ©Djaffar Ladjal/BackpagePix

Football delivers results, and the transformation in Bouake, the second-largest city in Côte d’Ivoire, is undeniable.

In September 2002, the city was ravaged by Civil War, as troops took control of the Northern Part of the West African country.

This marked a significant turning point in the lives of the people. What was once a vibrant city had been battered and scarred.

Bouake became a shadow of itself, with child soldiers patrolling the streets in armored tanks and occasional gunshots at night, instilling fear that the troops were taking over the city.

Stade de la Paix, a stadium used for the 1984 TotalEnergies CAF AFCON, served as an execution site during the civil war, according to locals.

In an effort to unite the people of Côte d’Ivoire, Stade de la Paix hosted the country’s game against Madagascar in June 2007 in the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON 2008 qualifiers.

Twenty-five thousand fans witnessed Côte d’Ivoire winning the game 5-0, marking a significant turning point.

“It was interesting when the game against Madagascar was played. We were all tense when the announcement was made because of how things were ongoing here,” said a witness.

Two decades later, the story has completely changed. Bouake is hosting Africa’s flagship football tournament, the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON Côte d’Ivoire 2023, at the renovated Stade de la Paix, now with a 40,000-seater capacity.

The city, once a rebel base, is now welcoming Africa’s football community. These days, it’s all pomp and pageantry.

Beyond the beauty of the football witnessed here, the town has become a major beneficiary of the byproducts of an AFCON that has provided infrastructure, an economic boost for locals, and an upliftment of spirits that were once in the woods.

The fairytale excites many locals who have witnessed both sides of Bouake.

“You have no idea what the current state of Bouake means to us. We are very excited to see people moving freely without any fear; this is a great feeling,” said a native of Bouake.

The beauty and unifying force of football are evident in Bouake, a testament to how the game brings people together.

As the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON wraps up soon, there will be much to look back on and be proud of.

For indigenes and the larger Ivorian people, the fireside chat will be how once upon a time, football came to town and changed everything.



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