Nigeria will host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between the reigning African champions, Cote d’Ivoire and the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone, the NFF announced on Wednesday.
The game, a Matchday 2 clash in Group I of the Africa Cup of Nations qualification series, will hold at either the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos or the Adokiye Amiesieamaka Stadium, Port Harcourt on Sunday, September 6.
NFF President Amaju Pinnick said on Wednesday that on receiving the request from the Sierra Leone Football Association, which is the host association for the match, the NFF approached the Federal Ministry of Health for a go-ahead.
“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.
“We are happy about the go-ahead because, once more, our country has an opportunity to underscore its leadership role on the African continent, nay global sphere. 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.”
Stressing that the hosting of the match is without any financial commitment to Nigeria, Pinnick stated that Nigeria has everything to gain and nothing to lose by hosting the match, recalling that recently, the U-20 Women National Team played a 2016 World Cup qualifier in Liberia and the Liberian team also came to Nigeria for the return leg, without any health issues.
It will be recalled that since the Ebola virus pandemic that ravaged some West African countries last year, the Confederation of African Football had compelled Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to find alternative venues for home matches. These countries have played their ‘home’ matches in countries like Ghana, Morocco, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali, without any health issues.