AFCON 2024: Félix Houphouët Boigny Stadium gets a makeover

Opened in 1964, thanks to the Abidjan Games, the Géo André stadium was renamed the Stade Félix Houphouët Boigny in 1980. Since then, it has undergone several transformations. The most recent renovations took place in 2020, as part of the organisation of the AFCON 2024.

It is, therefore a revamped stadium which will host Group B matches in Abidjan Plateau.

This year's competition is officially named AFCON 2023 since it was initially scheduled to take place last year but was postponed until January-February 2024.

For many years, it was the temple of Ivorian football. Which earned it several nicknames, the most famous of which are Félicia, “the candy box of Abidjan,” or “the bowl of the plateau”.

Formerly the Géo André stadium (1952-1979), it became the Félix Houphouët Boigny stadium (named after the first President, founding father of modern Ivory Coast) in 1980. It hosted its first competitions during the first Games of Abidjan in 1964.

Twenty years later (1984), it was one of the two stadiums selected (with the Bouaké stadium) for the organisation of the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations.

On this occasion, it underwent its first real transformation with two covered stands (official stand and side stand) and 30,625 seats. From there, Félicia became the preferred venue for all major Ivorian sporting competitions (football, rugby and athletics).

From 1970 to 2018, the Félix Houphouët Boigny stadium has seen generations of footballers succeed one another. Laurent Pokou, Moh Emmanuel, Kalé Bially, Abdoulaye Traoré, Alain Gouaméné, James Smith, Rashidi Yékini, Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré, Didier Zokora, Copa Barry, Sébastien Haller, Franck Kessié, Serge Aurier, Max Alain Gradel to name just a few celebrities…

Everyone experienced the great moments of Ivorian football with the atmosphere and human warmth that accompany major football matches. The two major Ivorian clubs, ASEC Mimosas and Africa Sports of Abidjan, have written the most beautiful pages of their history there. The Félix Houphouët Boigny stadium therefore represents a monument to Ivorian football.

In 2009, thanks to the first African Nations Championship which Côte d'Ivoire hosted (CHAN 2009), the Félicia, selected for this competition, had to undergo a transformation to present a much better face in order to host the opening match and the final. Two billion FCFA (€3,048,980) has been released for its renovation.

From two changing rooms, we now have four, and the number of seats also increased to 35,123. Its natural lawn is reinforced but retains its dimensions of 105m length and 68m width. A presidential box was even built, complete with a three-level elevator.

Félix Houphouët Boigny Stadium AFCON 2024
Credit: Icon Sport

The drama of 2009 at Stade Félix Houphouët Boigny

Alongside the great moments of joy and gladness, the Abidjan candy store experienced an unfortunate event on March 29, 2009. This was during the Ivory Coast vs Malawi 2010 World Cup qualifying game.

The access gate to one of the stands gave way under pressure from supporters who had their entry tickets and were frustrated at not being able to enter the stadium before the match kicked off. A stampede ensued, causing the death of 19 people by trampling, and injuring more than 130 people. A black page that has tarnished the image and reputation of Félicia.

The stadium is losing its lustre and the Ivorian Football Federation directs some matches of the national championship to the Bouaké and Yamoussoukro stadiums. Some Elephants' matches are also redirected to a couple of other stadiums across the country. As a result, the basin of the plateau loses its verve and its lawn takes on weeds.

Parts of the stadium also suffer from inadequate maintenance. As a result, the Felicia required a third renovation in 2020 as part of the preparations for AFCON 2023. This time, the capacity decreased from 35,123 to 27,900 seats.

The stands give way to seats painted in the national colours. Also, the Felicia has a new layout, with turns, a lagoon stand, a side stand, an official stand and a presidential, VIP and VVIP box. The stadium includes a press room, an anti-doping control room, a VIP room, a treatment room, referees' offices, a massage room, four changing rooms, and a video screen measuring 16.50 by 5.70 metres.

Clearly, it is a new-look, fully covered Félix Houphouët Boigny stadium which will welcome Egypt, Mozambique, Ghana and Cape Verde in Group B. Since its reopening last October, the Felicia has hosted two of the national team's games.

These were friendly matches against Morocco and South Africa. Both matches allowed the local organising committee (COCAN) and the African Football Confederation (CAF) to better gauge the stadium's capacities and reception. The widespread satisfaction of the various players in AFCON 2023 today makes Félicia one of the safest stadiums in this competition.

The Stade Félix Houphouët Boigny is therefore ready for AFCON 2024 and the new Director of the ONS (National Sports Office) is sparing no means to maintain it in its current state so that it looks great on the big day.

Félix Houphouët Boigny Stadium AFCON 2024
Credit: Icon Sport

Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium AFCON 2024 schedule

  • 14 January 6pm: Egypt vs Mozambique (Group B)
  • 14 January 9pm: Ghana vs Cape Verde (Group B)
  • 18 January 9pm: Egypt vs Ghana (Group B)
  • 19 January 3pm: Cape Verde vs Mozambique (Group B)
  • 22 January 6pm: Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria (Group A)
  • 22 January 9pm: Cape Verde vs Egypt (Group B)
  • 27 January 9pm: 2nd group A vs 2nd group C (round of 16 game 2)
  • 30 January 9pm: 1st group B vs 3rd group A/C or D (round of 16 game 8)
  • 2 February 9pm: Winners match 1 vs match 2 (quarter-final game 2)
  • 10 February 9pm: (3rd place match)
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Kelechi Udoka

Kelechi is an avid Enyimba fan who enjoys writing about the beautiful game. He has written thousands of articles for a few publications over the years.