Nigeria is to host the the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between African champions Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.
This is because of the Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone. Due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus in some parts of West Africa last year, the Confederation of African Football ordered the affected nations — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — to use alternative venues for their home matches.
The Nigerian Football Federation NFF announced that the match would be played at either the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, or the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, on September 6. Amaju Pinnick, the president of the NFF said that;
We are delighted to announce that we have received the go-ahead from the Federal Ministry of Health to host the match. The Sierra Leoneans will come with a delegation of 32, made up of mostly overseas-based professionals, technical crew and officials of the SLFA, to be led by its president, Isha Johansen.
The NFF has initiated discussions with the Lagos State Government and the Rivers State Government on preventive measures, such as keeping Sierra Leone’s small delegation in a special hotel where they can be monitored at all times.
We are talking of hosting the African champions, with the likes of African Footballer of the Year, Yaya Toure and others, and this will certainly earn us commendation from CAF and FIFA.
However, some Nigerians have expressed fear over this development. They claim that football fans and supporters from Sierra Leon could bring the Ebola virus back to Nigeria. An ex-Eagles midfielder, Emeka Ezeugo disclosed that;
Obviously all the people coming from the Ebola affected area of West Africa will be checked at the airport to ensure that that they are Ebola-free. All the preventive measures will be applied at the airport or at the border, to ensure that the foreigners are thoroughly checked. So, I don’t think it will pose much of a hazard than playing the game in Sierra Leone.
In reaction to this fear, the Nigerian Football Federation NFF alleged that there will be proper screening of players and that supporters from Sierra Leone will not be allowed into the country. The Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone match in Nigeria will demonstration the latters leadership position in the continent, claimed the NFF.