The federal government has paved the way for the return of competitive football after the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 lifted restrictions on contact sports on Thursday.
Fans will, however, continue to be locked out in line with Covid-19 protocols, Minister of Sports Sunday Dare clarified on Twitter.
“We welcome the lifting of D ban on football by the PTF,” Dare wrote on Twitter. “The lifting of restriction on outdoor activities including football is in line with earlier consultations with Ministry of Youth and Sports and NCDC.
“However, this is limited to the actual sports itself & not mass gathering.”
The announcement follows an earlier declaration by Dare signalling the imminent return of contact sports which had remained banned even after the government lifted restrictions on non-contact sports and opened up most of the country following a national lockdown during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The return of contact sports is sure to be a welcome development for the country’s professional footballers who have mounted immense pressure to return to the pitch since all sports was suspended in March.
It would also come as a huge relief for Nigeria’s representatives in CAF inter-club competitions as they can now start their pre-seasons ahead of the Champions League and Confederation Cup.
It also removes all uncertainty surrounding the country’s ability to host qualifiers for the U17 and U20 men and women’s team as well as the Super Eagles who face Sierra Leone in a 2021 AFCON qualifier next month.
Domestically, the Nigeria Football Federation had announced a tentative kick off date for the 2020-21 Nigeria Professional Football League and other leagues for October/November and it is expected preparations will now intensify for the resumption of the new season.
The League Management Company had already laid out guidelines that must be fulfilled by all twenty clubs before the season resumes and the sports ministry have stressed that club licensing requirements must be fulfilled before the season is allowed to start.