The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) has announced that the 2023 African Cup of Nations qualifier game against Sierra Leone will be held without fans in attendance.
The General Secretary of the NFF, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, announced this on Tuesday at a press conference preparing the media and the country for the first step towards another Super Eagles' AFCON appearance.
The venue for the match, the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, was the venue for the ill-fated game between the Super Eagles and the Black Stars of Ghana in their third-round playoff for one of the CAF slots for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Ghana ran out winners on the night thanks to the away goals rule after holding the Super Eagles to a 1-1 draw. Fans in the stadium did not take kindly to the loss and wreaked havoc on the stadium, which was newly renovated a few months before the game.
This led to the destruction of NFF, CAF and FIFA property, as well as injuries to stewards and some security personnel at the game. As a result, FIFA, through CAF, imposed a fine and a ban on the stadium for one game. The NFF have settled the fine and the ban, which will see the Super Eagles play their opening qualifiers against Sierra Leone at the stadium, will prevent fans from watching the match live.
Support the team however, Dr Sanusi urges Nigerians
Dr Sanusi said to the journalists at the press conference: “We want to appeal to our very passionate football fans to take heart for this one game. It is only a one-match ban, after which they can again start trooping out to support the Super Eagles.
“The match against Sierra Leone will be without fans as a consequence of what happened after the match against the Ghanaians.
“Nonetheless, we want to urge all our football fans, and indeed all Nigerians, to support the team whichever way they can and pray for success against the Sierra Leoneans on Thursday.”
Meanwhile, UD Almeria striker Sadiq Umar has charged his teammates to put the disappointment of the World Cup miss behind them and prepare to face the AFCON qualifiers squarely.
“We are all getting ready for the game”, Umar told NFF TV. “After the World Cup qualifiers, we told ourselves that we have to be back stronger and we have to show it.”
The match is scheduled for Thursday, June 9 at 5 PM Nigerian time. Four days later, they will travel to Morocco to tackle ‘The Falcons and True Parrots’ of São Tomé and Príncipe at the 45,000 –capacity Grand Stade de Agadir in Marrakech.
This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago