15 May 2016

“I can't carry the tickets Mr. Chris, but I can carry you!”

News arrived that Cameroon's Indomitable Lions would be playing their first competitive match at the new Chinese-built stadium in Limbe, so we decided to go check it out. The match was an African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in the end of March.

The pidgin English says it all.

We made our way to Limbe the day before to buy tickets. By that time the cheap seats were full, so we picked up a pair of 10,000 CFA tickets from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (after it turned out the vendor at the City Hall was not in yet).

View of Mt. Cameroon from Down Beach, Limbe.

We then passed the ensuing time walking around Limbe, visiting the Botanical Gardens, and eating grilled fish at Down Beach enjoying views of Mt. Cameroon (which is frequently obscured by clouds).

"Temporally out of use:" the swing and jungle gym have seen better days.

The Botanical Gardens were enjoyably tranquil, if a bit dilapidated. They featured an "amenity" for children, a cemetery for World War II combatants, an amphitheatre, and many impressive trees. The toilets were quite nice too.

Amphitheatre at Limbe Botanical Gardens.

In a change of pace from our usual beach-based Limbe stays, we stayed at Park Hotel Miramare, which had a pool as its shoreline was rather rocky.

The most popular feature of the pool was the sole inner tube.

The main event arrived and we began to look into transport to the stadium. We rode a moto whose driver alternated between blaring his horn and blowing a trumpet for the entire 15-20 minute drive as he weaved through traffic and smacked the trunks/boots of cars that got to close to us. (By this time, many fans had abandoned their cars at the side of the road.) We only collided with one vehicle, but soon reached an impassable area and were forced to walk.

Approaching Limbe stadium.

While the stadium is mostly complete the access road, though graded, was not yet paved. We had anyway alighted by some of the slag heaps where materials had been stored and constructions vehicles parked. With the stadium set above us, the trek reminded me of the walk to Mordor as various spectators scampered up the hill.

The final clamber!

Upon arrival we crossed a river of plastic bottles, crashed a line (these were pleasantly orderly) then made our way through security and into the stadium. We had packed water and snacks, although this was unnecessary. There were of course no stadium-organized concessions, but their place was enthusiastically taken up by vendors hawking drinks, Congo meat, yogurt, meat brochettes, etc.

The stadium was in quite good condition, had ample bathrooms, and a good sound system (powered by generator since the lights were out). There were nice views to the north and south of the stadium, and a good-sized scoreboard (which used Microsoft Windows).

There were some difficulties when it was time to switch between the scoreboard and player lineups.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw (with one sensational or deplorable goal, depending on your rooting interests). The Cameroonian fans were a bit dissatisfied with the result, although the Indomitable Lions remain on course to qualify for the Cup of Nations.

Confirmation that the stadium was Chinese-built.

Gabon is hosting the tournament in January 2017, so hopefully we'll be able to make the short flight for a game or two. Cameroon, in turn, is hosting the women's edition this October/November so we have a lot of international football in our future.

View of Ambas Bay from the stadium.

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