Diamniadio (Senegal) (AFP) – Thousands of Senegalese gathered on Tuesday for the inauguration of a 50,000-seat stadium intended to make the country the place to be for international events in Africa.
The stadium is in Diamniadio, a city under construction about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the capital Dakar, for which an express rail link was opened in December.
The venue, for now called the Stade du Senegal, will be the only one in Senegal that will be certified for international football.
The country’s last major stadium, Lat Dior, in the Thies region 70 kilometers from Dakar, lost its Confederation of African Football (CAF) certification in May last year.
Cheering crowds came by bus and train for the inauguration, which follows Senegal’s spectacular win at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) on February 6.
The new stadium was built in just 18 months by Turkish construction company Summa, at a cost of 156 billion CFA francs ($270 million/€238 million).
Senegalese President Macky Sall, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and FIFA boss Gianni Infantino were among the figures scheduled to attend Tuesday’s inauguration.
An exhibition match will be part of the show, with Senegalese legends such as Aliou Cissé – the current national team coach – pitting against a team of African stars, including Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba of Côte d’ ‘Ivory.
“It’s a source of pride to have a stadium as beautiful as this Senegal. The country needed it to restore its footballing image,” said a supporter, Bamba Dieng, 24.
“I have never seen such a big stadium. I hope it will be properly maintained so that it lasts a very long time,” said 29-year-old Ibou Ngom.
Mbaye Jacques Diop, communications adviser at the sports ministry, said the project was part of a program to make Dakar a “sports hub” for Africa.
It would mean an end to matches transferred to Asia as the continent lacked infrastructure, he said.
The first major competitive game will take place on March 29.
Senegal, who beat Egypt to win the African title, meet the Pharaohs again in a World Cup qualifier.
Senegal has launched a stadium renovation program ahead of Dakar hosting the Summer Youth Olympics in 2026.
The largest sports venue in the country is the Léopold Sedar Senghor stadium with a capacity of 60,000 seats built in Dakar in 1985.
© 2022 AFP