Gabon President Ali Bongo 'excited' to host Nations Cup

Caf President Issa Ayatou (L), Gabonese President Ali Bongo (C) and Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema (R)
President Ali Bongo says he believes that co-hosts Gabon can go far

Gabon is preparing to host its first major sporting event, amid huge excitement among its population, according to the country's president.

Ali Bongo visited the media centre in the Gabonese capital, Libreville, ahead of the country co-hosting the Africa Cup of Nations with Equatorial Guinea.

"Football is everything here," President Bongo said before the tournament kicks off on Saturday.

"The Gabonese people are very pleased to have this event in their country."

"And I'm just like the rest of them - very pleased and very excited.

"It's not only Africa's biggest competition but after the World Cup and the European Championship, this is the third [biggest] world event when it comes to football.

"So for us it was very important to be able to host such a competition, like every other country in Africa that has done so before."

Gabon face competition debutants Niger, as well as North Africans Morocco and Tunisia in Group C and the Panthers will be enouraged by the belief their president has in their chances of success.

"It's a competition, it's open," Mr Bongo told the BBC

"So of course I believe we can go very far.

"With the support of the people, only God knows."

Gabon will play two of their group games in the capital - against Niger and Morocco - with their final group game against Tunisia being played in Franceville on 31 January.

The 2012 finals take place between 21 January and 12 February, with the first games kicking off in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, on Saturday.