- FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Issa Hayatou and other officials of CAF were all at the ceremony where the official mascot was unveiled
- A Black Panther named Samba was unveiled for the 31st edition of the AFCON
- The Black Panther is a national symbol of Gabon which derives its name from a local Bantu language
- Samba means, ‘hello and welcome’ in Bantu
- President Ali Bongo Ondimba expressed his joy for the opportunity that has been given his country to host the rest of Africa
- Gabon is constructing two new stadia
President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon on Friday unveiled the 2017 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Mascot at a ceremony in Franceville, Gabon.
It was a well attended occasion which saw the presence of the newly-elected FIFA President Gianni Infantino, Issa Hayatou and other officials of CAF as well as Gabon’s football federation.
A black panther named Samba was unveiled as the official mascot for the 31 edition of the AFCON which is supposed to be hosted next year, 2017 by the Central African nation.
The Black Panther is a national symbol of Gabon and derives its name from a local Bantu language.
Samba means, ‘hello and welcome’ in Bantu and it shows the friendliness of the Gabonese as a people. The Mascot dons the famous blue and yellow colours of Gabon and comes with an imposing figure, ready to join the excitement anticipated on the African continent.
READ ALSO: Ghana to get new indoor sports arena?
Addressing an excited crowd, moments after the unveiling, President Ali Bongo Ondimba expressed his joy for the opportunity that his country has in hosting the rest of Africa.
"I am thrilled today to see the Black Panthers play in this packed stadium where Gabonese from all walks of life are gathered to share their common passion for the game. Football, like many 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.”
Gabon will be hosting the continental showpiece for the second time, having previously co-hosted the 2012 AFCON with Equatorial Guinea.
READ ALSO: FIFA endorses new reforms
The oil-rich country is currently constructing two stadiums in Port-Gentil and the northern town of Oyem for the tournament, with the capacity of 20,000 and 20,500 respectively.
They will use four venues, Libreville, Franceville, Port Gentil and Oyem for the 16-team tournament, which will take place from 14 January to February 5, 2017.