Resources limited but week one of Afcon a triumph
Equatorial Guinea's sparse resources, one of Africa’s smallest countries, have been stretched to the limit.
MONGOMO - Tunisia had to bathe in their hotel swimming pool and Ghana moaned about lengthy bus trips to training but the first week of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations expected to burst at the seams can be seen as a something of triumph.
The sparse resources of Equatorial Guinea, one of Africa's smallest countries, have been stretched to the limit by the 16-team tournament which was originally supposed to be hosted in Morocco.
The switch left organisers with 64 days to set up a tournament which is the showpiece of African sport and interest in which extends well beyond the continent.
In the absence of a local organising committee, a team from the Confederation of African Football has been in place for the two last months to oversee rapid upgrades and installations to ensure the show goes ahead.
The pitches were replaced in both Mongomo and Ebibeyin with imported Spanish grass overseen by English experts, exposing the tournament to the risk that they would not have enough time to be properly bedded in and would come apart under the pressure of two matches a day.
There have been occasions when a massive chunk of grass has come apart but the field has largely held firm. "It is a bit spongy under foot but it plays well," said South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba.
Television broadcast trucks were sent by boat from Spain and Portugal to ensure that the pictures are beamed to broadcasters worldwide.
The biggest triumph, however, has been the lively crowds, a capacity turn out at three of the four venue, which is in marked contrast to many recent previous tournaments.
In-stadium facilities have been knocked together at the last minute by a bevy of foreign workers but proven effective. A force of 350 policemen from Angola run security at the stadiums and buses have been sent from neighbouring Gabon to help transport the teams.
There is a good road and air network between the four venues but the contrast in facilities is stark.
Ghana and South Africa are staying in the palatial splendour of a five star hotel built in Mongomo but in nearby Ebibeyin, Tunisia have drawn a short straw in a hotel where the power often cuts and there was no water for several days. "We all got in a small pool to bath after two days without water," said winger Wahbi Khazri.
Equatorial Guinea was the only country prepared to step in and replace Morocco after CAF stripped them of the right to host the tournament.
Morocco wanted it postponed for fears travelling fans would bring the deadly Ebola virus into the country but an angry CAF rejected the request as alarmist.
Measures against Ebola have been strictly enforced on arrival in Equatorial Guinea and at the stadium in Ebibeyin, which sits on the border with Cameroon and Gabon.
On Thursday spectators patiently queued up to have their temperature measured and be given a disinfectant to rub on their hands before being allowed into the ground.