Nigeria moves WCup qualifiers over safety concerns
Nigeria moved its upcoming World Cup and African Cup of Nations
qualifiers on Thursday over fears about attacks from a radical
Islamist sect and spiraling religious violence in the nation.
The Nigeria Football Federation issued a statement saying
matches scheduled for June 3 and June 17 would be played at the
U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar, a city in the country’s far
southeast. The federation earlier ruled out playing the matches at
the National Stadium in the central capital of Abuja, saying the
grass pitch there had not been looked after and would not be ready
Nigeria will face Namibia in a World Cup qualifier on June 3,
and then play Rwanda in their African Cup group.
”We looked at all the options available to us and we decided
Calabar is the best choice for now,” the statement quoted
federation President Aminu Maigari as saying.
Maigari said the decision had to be made now as FIFA wanted
Nigeria to confirm a venue for the June 3 match by Friday.
The two qualifiers had been scheduled to be held in Kaduna, a
central Nigeria city where an Easter suicide car bombing killed at
least 41 people. A radical Islamist sect later carried out a bomb
attack on an office building where newspaper correspondents work,
killing at least four people.
A radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram claimed
responsibility for the newspaper office attack. The sect, whose
name means ”Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language
of Nigeria’s Muslim north, is waging an increasingly bloody
sectarian fight with the country’s weak central government. The
sect has been blamed for at least 520 killings this year alone in
Nigeria, according to an Associated Press count.
While the sect has not carried out an attack against a sporting
event or threatened to do so, it has struck soft targets in the
past where security is light. Sporting events in Nigeria, except
for major international football matches, typically see little
police or military presence.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at