The Nigeria Football Federation has asked CAF to consider postponing Wednesday’s Confederation Cup tie between Rivers United and Bloemfontein Celtic and explore the possibility of staging the match in any of Nigeria’s neighbouring countries after health authorities declined to approve a waiver for the South African side to bypass local Covid-19 protocols for visitors to Nigeria.
In addition to testing negative for Covid-19 in the country of departure at least 120 hours pre-boarding, intending visitors to Nigeria must also self-isolate for seven days on arrival to the country during which time they are to avoid all physical interaction with members of the public.
CAF had requested that Rivers United secure a waiver from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for Bloemfontein Celtic that would see the South Africans fly into Nigeria for tomorrow’s first round, second leg tie in Port Harcourt without having to adhere to the mandatory Covid-19 measures for visitors to Nigeria.
Africa’s governing body had warned the tie would be awarded to Celtic should the return leg fail to hold as scheduled in Nigeria.
Rivers United lead 2-0 from the first leg and will qualify to the group stage if they avoid defeat.
But it now appears the match may no longer hold as scheduled after the NFF notified CAF on Monday, of their inability to secure a waiver for Celtic’s retinue of players and staff.
Nigeria has witnessed a recent surge in the number of coronavirus cases and authorities have introduced more stringent travel restrictions with another nation-wide lockdown a possibility.
South Africa is also battling a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, made worse by the discovery in the country of a more virulent variant of the coronavirus which is far more transmissible than the original disease.
While stressing that the refusal of local health authorities to grant waivers to Celtic was not specifically targeted at South African nationals, NFF secretary general Mohammed Sanusi in a letter urged CAF to consider rescheduling the match for a latter date and venue even if it means staging the match in another country with less stringent Covid-19 measures.
“I kindly refer you to the subject matter and regrettably inform you that, our request for a waiver for the Bloemfontein Celtic FC Contingent to Nigeria, for the CAF CC Match #70 has been declined by the Authorities,” Sanusi informed CAF in the letter.
Continuing, Sanusi noted “this must be as a result of the alarming surge in rising numbers of COVID-19 infections across the country and not targeted at any demographic group or country.
“In view of the foregoing, Nigeria Football Federation wish to Kindly request the General Secretary to consider the postponement of the game and a possible rescheduling of both the Date and Venue of the match, with the possibility of staging the match in any of the Nigeria neighboring countries with a little less stringent COVID -19 protocols.
“Please understand that, the health policy as put in place by the Nigeria Health authority is aimed at controlling the spread of the already alarming number of COVID-19 infection in Nigeria and not aimed at South African Nationals. The relationship between these two countries remain cordial,” the letter concluded.
It is unclear if CAF will accede to the request or if Bloemfontein Celtic will be in favour of postponing the tie.