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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Stade Municipal Bou Ali – Lahouar is home to the Tunisian soccer club Espoir Sportifde Hammam Sousse. The stadium is a very basic two sided arena with an all seated capacity of 6,500. The main stand housing the press box and changing room facilities is the only area with a roof that will shelter supporters from the sun. The opposite stand looks a little more modern but leaves you open to the elements.
One end of the ground is fenced off from an astro turf training pitch whilst the opposite end is no more than a brick wall. The stadium does not have floodlights as most games are played in late afternoon and the facilities in the main area are completely run down. The toilet facilities are the worst that I have been in having visited over 2,000 different sporting venues. The 1965 African Nations Cup saw the stadium host one game between Ghana and Congo-Leopoldville.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Take your own food as other than a guy selling sandwiches from a bag there isn't any food or beverage available. You'll especially want a bottle of water as temperatures can be warm, but not unbearable in the summer months.
Two sided venues are always poor for generating an atmosphere so when spectators are allowed in to sporting venues in Tunisia this venue might get a second star. However I love stadiums that provide something different and the sight of the Mosque behind the goal certainly provides that. Watching football in an empty stadium from a press box surrounded by 150 police was also one surreal experience I will never forget. In addition, a further 100 were positioned outside the stadium on street corners restricting access to the stadium.
Sousse and its neighbouring areas is a popular holiday destination guaranteeing sun, sandy beaches and decent hotels at reasonable prices. The resort of Port El Kantaoui was our base and the Hotel Riu Imperial Marhaba is highly recommended for a comfortable all inclusive stay. There are many other hotels that cater for all budgets. There is nothing of interest around the stadium, but the short journey to Sousse or Port El Kantaoui will offer plenty to do before and after a game.
There aren't any fans!!!
Due to the current (fall 2013) political climate in Tunisia, sporting and other major events have been played for the last year behind closed doors as the current government does not want large crowds in one place. Football, as the national sport, has suffered more than others due to its close association with politics. This has meant clubs suffering from loss of income and the game currently lies in a poor state of affairs financially. It is a shame really, because Tunisian people are some of the nicest you could wish to meet and they desperately miss their football.
Get a taxi.
The stadium is located about a mile inland from the sea front of Hammam Sousse, although local buses will drop you near. The nearest airports are Enfhida and Monister which are about a forty minute drive away. Sousse also has a railway station, but they are slow and take forever. Taxis are really cheap and are the best option to get around.
When supporters are allowed, the return on investment for visitors is excellent. With a change of government imminent, tickets are on sale for the next Tunisia World Cup Qualifying game. These are priced at equivalent to £4, £8 and £15 for what is a big game. If only I could watch England at Wembley for those prices!!!
It was only my Stadium Journey ID card that got me near the place and in. Beware that fixture information is sparse and that whole fixture schedules are changed at short notice. The best websites to check for information are the following. www.kawarji.com, www.ftf.org.tn and www.soccerway.com.
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