By Ogova Ondego
Published March 26, 2016
A black panther clad in blue and yellow is the mascot of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2017 competition that will be held in Gabon.
The 16-team continental tournament will be held in the Gabonese towns of Libreville, Franceville, Port Gentil and Oyem, January 14-February 5, 2017. This will be the second time Gabon will be hosting AFCON, having co-organised the event with Equatorial Guinea in 2012.
Gabon is currently constructing two stadia in Port-Gentil and Oyem for AFCON 2017, with a combined seating capacity of 40500, that is evenly split between the two football shrines: 20000 and 20500, respectively.
Presiding over the unveiling of the mascot ceremony in Franceville on March 25, 2016 were the central African country’s President, Ali Bongo Ondimba; Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) President, Gianni Infantino; Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Issa Hayatou; and Gabon’s football federation officials.
By choosing the black panther–the national symbol of Gabon–as the mascot of the all-Africa football contest is seen as the Central African nation’s long term commitment to environmental protection. Blue and yellow are the official colours of Gabon while the name of the mascot, Samba, means ‘hello’ and/or ‘welcome’.
“Football, like no other sport, creates a sense of unity, equality and inclusion. All of these are at the heart of my vision for a changing Gabon. It is a pleasure to welcome the new President of FIFA, on his first trip to Africa, to see for himself the great welcome our country will give all participants and visitors to next year’s tournament,” said President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
Gianni Infantino was in Gabon on the last leg of a three-day, 4-African country tour that took him to South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Gabon.
Sierra Leone’s Lone Stars and Gabon’s Black Panthers played a friendly match as part of the mascot-unveiling ceremony.