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Revealed: FIFA almost stopped Abuja match

By Onochie Anibeze
Nigeria dared world Football governing body, FIFA, in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier.And the match that Nigeria eventually won 3-0 would not have taken place but for a last minute decision by FIFA Executive member, Dr. Amos Adamu, who took responsibility and gave the go-ahead for the match to commence.  Before this time, the match commissioner for the day, Tony Yeboah, had decided that the match would not start.

SKIPPERS’ ‘WAR’ . . .  Super Eagles’ Captain Nwankwo Kanu tangles with his French counterpart, Patrick Vieira, during their friendly match in France. Nigeria won 1-0.
SKIPPERS’ ‘WAR’ . . . Super Eagles’ Captain Nwankwo Kanu tangles with his French counterpart, Patrick Vieira, during their friendly match in France. Nigeria won 1-0.

He had good reasons that FIFA which entrusted the match to him would have gladly commended. The Abuja stadium is a 60,000 capacity stadium. On Sunday, more than 65,000 found their way into the stadium. It was a security risk.

The crowd control was, as usual, poor. This time, it was not because the police could not control the crowd already inside the stadium but simply because more than the stadium capacity were allowed in, a question for those who printed and managed ticket sales.  There were ugly scenes and Yeboah felt that it was not safe to start the match.

“After what happened in Abidjan where more than 20 people died even outside the stadium while trying to get in, FIFA does not want re-occurrence of that tragedy. They know the problems we have in Africa and they have given instructions with regard to the kind of thing we had today,” Yeboah said after the Abuja match.

“I didn’t want to start the match. Actually, I had decided that the match would not hold. The crowd control wasn’t good.

I saw people surging into places already full. There were those hanging and it was not good. The crowd control could be better. I didn’t want to start the match until Dr. Adamu directed that we could go on,” Yeboah said as Adamu nodded and said, “yes, I asked him to go on with the match.

Things normalized a little bit and I saw that they would not get out of hand.”
People jumped parameter fences to get vintage positions. Outside the stadium was also bad. As usual, little was done to control traffic on the routes leading to the stadium. Vehicles jammed up in the chaotic traffic and this even affected the Super Eagles whose bus was also stuck in the traffic. Coach Amodu Shuabu and Idah Peterside were forced to jump out to direct traffic at the time they were supposed to be at the dressing room.

“Is this how we will continue? How can it be explained that the home team could not gain entry into the stadium,” he shouted while directing traffic.

It was a big shame but one that has been with the Abuja Stadium for long. The bigger shame is that nothing is being done about it and the country prepares to host FIFA U 17 World Cup.

control wasn’t good. I saw people surging into places already full. There were those hanging and it was not good. The crowd control could be better. I didn’t want to start the match until Dr. Adamu directed that we could go on,” Yeboah said as Adamu nodded and said, “yes, I asked him to go on with the match. Things normalized a little bit and I saw that they would not get out of hand.”

People jumped perimeter fences to get vintage positions. Outside the stadium was also bad. As usual, little was done to control traffic on the routes leading to the stadium. Vehicles jammed up in the chaotic traffic and this even affected the Super Eagles whose bus was also stuck in the traffic. Coach Amodu Shuabu and Idah Peterside were forced to jump out to direct traffic at the time they were supposed to be at the dressing room.

“Is this how we will continue? How can it be explained that the home team could not gain entry into the stadium,” he shouted while directing traffic.

It was a big shame but one that has been with the Abuja Stadium for long. The bigger shame is that nothing is being done about it and the country prepares to host FIFA U-17 World Cup.


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