Fans won’t be in attendance at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium when the Super Eagles take on Sierra Leone in a 2021 AFCON qualifier next week after the Sports Ministry and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 issued an advisory to the Edo State Government and the Nigeria Football Federation against opening the gates to the public.
The Edo State government had announced that fans would be granted free entrance to watch the 13 November fixture at the refurbished stadium which will host the national team for the first time since 2011.
But the ministry has cautioned against admitting fans inside the stadium, warning in a letter to the state government that such a move would fall foul of the COVID-19 protocols for contact sports.
The letter read in part, “The ministry wishes to bring to your urgent attention that in compliance with the condition of no gathering agreed upon by the ministry and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 before the Federal Government opened up football and contacts sports, the match between Nigeria and Sierra Leone will not have any audience and no gathering save for players, match officials and government officials from both countries.
“Testings must be conducted on all of them prior to the match.”
The ministry added, “The no gathering, no audience for football and contact sports is still in force, which means there shall be no gathering for the Nigerian vs Sierra Leone match, as any violation of this condition may lead to a rollback of the opening up of football and contact sports in the country.
“The PTF and the ministry are on the same page on this matter and the protocol for clearances rests with both the ministry and the PTF when it comes to staging any sports event in Nigeria.
“Full compliance with COVID-19 protocols is to be enforced.
“The PTF is worried about a spike following the second wave of Covid-19 and is considering another lockdown.”
Nigeria lead Group L and are well placed to qualify for the continental showpiece having won their first two qualifiers against the Benin Republic in Uyo and Lesotho in Maseru.
The three-time African champions will round up their qualifying campaign against the Squirrels of Benin away from home and Crocodiles of Lesotho in Nigeria after the double header against Sierra Leone.