By Onochie Anibeze
Nigeria has finally settled for the Waterfront Hotel in Richards Bay as their camp for the World Cup in South Africa.
The Nigeria Football Federation had chosen New Hampshire Hotel in Johannesburg but controversies followed this choice after it was said to lack the sophistication befitting of a lodge that will house a World Cup team.
Interestingly, Aisha Falode, the head of NFFâ€™s Media Committee sparked the controversy with reports that portrayed the Hampshire Hotel as falling short of the standard Nigeria deserves. Paul Bassey, our ace columnist also added weight to Aishaâ€™s revelations in his Vanguard column.
Sports Minister Isa Bio wielded the big stick and knocked down NFFâ€™s choice that had been approved by Eagles manager, Lars Lagerback. He did so after a visit to the hotel last week during which he inspected other hotels including Zimbali, a five star hotel that is few minutes drive away from Hampshire and Waterfront in Richards Bay which had earlierÂ also beenÂ picked by the federation as a camping base.
When sports minister rejected Hampshire and preferred Zimbali, Lagerback also differed, opting to move the Eagles to Richards Bay, a city that is two hours drive from Nigeriaâ€™s match venues in Johannesburg and Durban.
It follows that Eagles would camp in Richards Bay but will move to a FIFA hotel 24 hours before their matches. FIFA approves hotels that are not more than 45 minutes drive from their match venues.
Nigeriaâ€™s last minute change of hotel cost the Local Organising Committee some fortune, our South African source said at the weekend.
â€œThe Local Organising Committee and FIFA had already documented Hampshire as Nigeriaâ€™s hotel and taken appropriate measures to ensure the need the standards with regard to training pitches etc,â€the source said, adding â€œmoney, a lot of money has already been spent, so a change will also cost some money in terms of providng another training ground and other logistics.â€
Determined to offer the Eagles a befitting base during the World Cup Nigeria opted to pay a fine for this last minute change as reported by our Patrick Omorodion who attended a briefing held by Bio on arrival from his inspection of hotels for Eagles in South Africa.
â€œWe will have to pay a fine of $125,000 (About N18 million) for breach of contract,â€the minister said yesterday while giving account of his trip to South Africa.