African Nations Cup Fanview: Ivory Coast Supporters Remain Cold Towards Their Team

Nations Cup fever is gripping very few people in Ivory Coast even as the event rapidly approaches...
Umar Seydou (pictured) is an Ivorian trader who deals in sport clothes – T-shirts, jerseys and shorts. He has been in this business for eight years. He says ‘football year’ usually boost his sales except this time around.

“I can’t really understand. Nations Cup is few days away and nobody is coming to buy the Elephants jerseys,” Seydou said to Goal.com. “Two of my brothers who do the same business in town say nothing is moving in their shops too.”

But why are Ivorians not making collections of Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure and Salomon Kalou’s T-shirts this time around like they did before Egypt 2006 and Ghana 2008?

Goal.com spoke to some students from Cocody University who believe many people in town are just being careful to give their heart away and get disappointed in return.

“I think Ghana 2008 taught not only the Elephants a great lesson, but the population as well,” said Philippe Konan, a year-three philosophy undergraduate. “People are trying to adopt the attitude of ‘don’t scream until you see it happen’ towards the national team.”

Besides the disappointment at Ghana 2008, where the Elephants, widely deemed as favourites, were walloped 4-1 by Egypt; some Ivorians feel their present team has too many flaws that outsiders don’t see or pretend not to see.

“Personally, I’m scared of investing time and emotion in such a team,” Antoine Kipre of the biology department said. “Our defence is not reliable. Our goalkeeper is nothing to write home about. Our midfield is now vague without Romaric. And, our attackers like we know them, are European pros who don’t take the necessary risks – for fear of injury – to move the team forward during tough encounters,” Kipre said.

Thinking the female fans would have a better feeling for their team, Goal.com discovered something worse.

“No, no, no, don’t tell me about the Elephants this time,” Rose Kouadio, a 28-year-old cosmetics seller, refuted with a frown. “At Ghana 2008, they broke my heart like my high school lover did years back. This time, I’ll be watching soap operas all through January. If Drogba and company manage to win something, we’ll dance with them then.”

Sandrine, a 32-year old nurse stated to Goal.com, “They play well in their European clubs, but don’t do the same here. I’ll be watching films during the tournament. At least I’ll keep my heart unbroken. No player has ever shared his millions with me, why should I suffer my soul for them?” she said.

But things will definitely change if the Elephants manage to progress in the tournament, says a secondary school teacher in Bingerville – a suburb of Abidjan.

“The low-key support the Ivorian national team is receiving right now is understandable. Each time they receive heavy support, they disappoint fans. So, people are just being careful. But enthusiasm will mount once the team start winning matches after matches,” he said.

The ball is now in the court of the Elephants. They need to work hard at Angola 2010 to restore the lost ‘love and trust’ that existed between them and local fans; and not to widen the chasm.

Kingsley Kobo, Goal.com