The recent choice of venue for the Super Eagles’ 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Lesotho in Nigeria may have raised some question marks on the politicization of the nation’s football ahead of maintaining a winning home ground for the team.
Last week Friday, the Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Sola Aiyepeku together with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) First Vice President Seyi Akinwumi led the Super Eagles head coach, Gernot Rohr to the Teslim Balogun Stadium for an on-the-spot assessment ahead of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match.
Aiyepeku reiterated that the pitch will be match-ready before the game next month.
“I am really happy that the Super Eagles Coach, who came for an on-the-spot assessment of the stadium to evaluate the level of our readiness was satisfied with what he saw at the Teslim Balogun Stadium”.
“I assure the Eagles Coach that the Teslim Balogun Stadium is a viable option for Nigeria’s home match against Lesotho. We have re-grown the grass in the last 15 months and a lot of work is in progress to ensure that the pitch is match-ready”, he added.
There is no doubt that hosting the match in Lagos will be a huge one for Lagos and the team considering the massive support they usually derive from Lagosians when matches are played at the Main Bowl of the National Stadium, Surulere.
The argument being forwarded by officials at The Glasshouse is that Lagos would be the best option for Lesotho, to save costs and due to logistics issues, especially as the Lagos State government is willing to foot the bills.
Again, if it eventually sees the light of the day, this will be the first time in a decade the Super Eagles have played any game in Lagos with their last against Sierra Leone ending 2-1 in favour of the hosts in 2011.
However, this may not be the best time for the NFF to accept the juicy offer of the team playing at the Teslim Balogun Stadium knowing fully that the players are not familiar with the turf. A further slip could cost the team a place in Cameroon.
Besides, it would have been an ideal venue if the team had already booked a place for the tournament when less pressure will be on the players. But at this stage, the venue should be a no-go area for the team if Nigeria must qualify for AFCON.
Super Eagles stars would rather play next month’s AFCON qualifier against Lesotho in Uyo and not make a long-awaited return to Lagos. Rohr also stated that the players would have preferred the game was played at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, where they have played most of the home games for the past four years.
“The second game, we will do it in Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos,” Rohr told ESPN.
“We know that this is a very special occasion with the pandemic, and we cannot have the usual [venue in] Uyo.
“But my players they like Uyo because of the facilities, because of the stadium.”
By and large, NFF must prioritize the ambition of the team and not the financial prize that comes with it when the State Government decides to show interest in hosting games. They should learn from the mistakes of the past in order not to jeopardize the team’s qualification ticket.
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