Themba Hadebe, Associated Press
Tunisia and Ghana observe a minute of silence for the victims of Egypt's stadium disaster before their African Cup of Nations quarter final soccer match at the Stade de Franceville in Franceville, Gabon, Sunday Feb. 5, 2012.

BATA, Equatorial Guinea — Organizers say fans will be given free tickets to both African Cup of Nations semifinals to avoid the eyesore of having empty stadiums.

Confederation of African Football spokesman Ouattara Hego says schoolchildren and local businesses were handed an unspecified number of tickets for the Zambia vs. Ghana and Ivory Coast vs. Mali games, while fans that turn up on the day will be allowed in without paying.

Filling the stadiums is a perennial problem at the African Cup of Nations, where matches not involving the host nation are often almost deserted.

Hego said he hoped as many as 15,000 fans might attend the Zambia-Ghana match at the 37,500-capacity Estadio de Bata and this "should create some atmosphere," but there were still swathes of empty seats as the match kicked off.