AFCON back-to-back ties cause travel nightmares

By Bakang Mhaladi

Gaborone - After the continental soccer mother body, CAF, decided to adopt a European-style of Africa Cup of Nations fixtures, teams have had to endure nightmare travels, as they criss-cross the continent within a limited period.

Unlike in Europe where travel is nearly seamless, the case in Africa is different as teams have to connect to most destinations, with some flights unavailable for days.

This has forced most cash-strapped associations to charter flights, which is an expensive option.

The Botswana Football Association (BFA) was forced to fork out P1.6million to charter a flight to Burkina Faso last week. However, it would have been around P1.2million cheaper had the team used a commercial flight, as air tickets for a round trip to Burkina Faso cost P400,000.

The two teams met in Ouagadougou on Saturday before the reverse fixture in Botswana's second city of Francistown on Tuesday.

Burkina Faso were also forced to charter a flight to Francistown, as both sides flew straight to Botswana soon after the final whistle in Ouagadougou. The Stallions trampled the Zebras 3-0.

Commercial flights, which are less expensive than chartered flights, would have meant the teams arriving on Monday night, just hours before the Tuesday evening kick-off.

“Almost everyone is chartering a flight, there is no way you can use a commercial flight for these back-to-back clashes,” BFA public relations and marketing officer, Tumo Mpatane, said.

“Only those paired within their region can take commercial flights. The back-to-back clashes are demanding and exhausting. You can see that players either reserve their energy in the first or second leg. As it is, there was supposed to be a week in between the fixtures but it is a subject that is open for discussion. Hopefully, the powers that be can open a dialogue around this matter,” Mpatane told The Southern Times.

Lesotho flew to Uganda for their Group L encounter in a chartered plane, and Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, offered 200 million Shillings (US$53,000) to help charter a flight for his team for the return leg.

Nigeria also chartered a plane to play Libya in Sfax, Tunisia.

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