Gernot Rohr is hopeful fans would be allowed into stadiums to cheer on the Super Eagles when they kick off their qualifying campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup later this year.
The Super Eagles begin their journey to Qatar on the last day in August when they host Liberia before a trip to Cape Verde four days later. They will also take on the Central African Republic for the sole World Cup qualifying ticket in Group C.
A venue for the clash with the Lone Stars is yet to be confirmed but Rohr hinted the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos might play host to the national team once again after the Eagles returned there for the first time in a decade during the 2021 AFCON qualifying campaign.
On that occasion in March, Nigeria defeated Lesotho by three goals in front of a sparse crowd with few fans allowed into the stadium by CAF and local authorities because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nigeria has yet to lift restrictions on fans’ attendance at games and the Nigeria Football Federation recently reiterated that league matches should be played behind closed doors following a series of fan trouble at different grounds.
But Rohr hopes the situation around the pandemic would have eased a bit by the time the qualifiers come around and provisions can be made to allow fans in to spur his side to the best possible start when they host Liberia.
“The fans are welcome,” he said. “We hope that the fans can come to the stadiums in September and this crazy pandemic which is making it difficult for everybody will allow them to be with us.
“We have to start well in Lagos, in the (Teslim) Balogun stadium.”
Rohr’s Eagles failed to impress in a double-header friendly against Cameroon in preparation for the qualifiers.
Shorn of many regulars including Napoli’s Victor Osimhen and Rangers’ Joe Aribo, Nigeria failed to score in both games against the Indomitable Lions in Austria, losing the first by a lone goal before drawing the other.
The former Gabon coach would expect a much better showing when most of his regulars return for the World Cup qualifiers and stressed the importance of a good start especially given the short turnaround between both matches.
The trip to Cape Verde in particular, Rohr believes, might prove a bit tricky with the tiny nation the last team to beat Cameroon, when they thrashed the Indomitable Lions 3-1 at the Estádio Nacional de Cabo Verde in Praia back in March.
“In the beginning of September, we only have a few days to prepare, and four days later we have to play in Cape Verde,” he said.
“The two first matches are very important. When you see the result of Cape Verde against Cameroon, they beat them 3-1, on the synthetic pitch. We know already that it will be a very difficult match.”