Isa Hayatou: new format for AFCON 2017

Isa Hayatou: new format for AFCON 2017

Nigeria will host the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match between reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire and the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone.

In a statement on its website, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said on Wednesday the game, a Match Day 2 clash in the qualifiers’ Group I, will hold in Lagos.

“It will hold at either the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos or the Adokiye Amiesiamaka Stadium in Port Harcourt on Sunday, Sept. 6,’’ it said.

The report quoted NFF President Amaju Pinnick as saying the match had no health concerns.

He said on receiving the request from the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), which is the match’s host association, the NFF approached the Federal Ministry of Health for a go-ahead.

“We are delighted to announce that we have received the go-ahead from the Federal Ministry of Health to host the match,’’ Pinnick said.

The NFF said also that the Sierra Leoneans will come with a delegation of 32, made up of mostly overseas-based players, technical crew and SLFA officials.

The delegation is to be led by the association’s president, Isha Johansen.

Pinnick said the opportunity to host the match was heart-warming.

“We are talking of hosting the African champion team, with the likes of African Player of the Year Yaya Toure, and others, and this will certainly earn us commendation from CAF and FIFA.

“Also, we are happy about the go-ahead because, once more, our country has an opportunity to underscore its leadership role on the African continent, nay global sphere.

“The NFF has initiated discussions with the Lagos State Government and Rivers State Government on preventive measures, such as keeping Sierra Leone’s small delegation in a special hotel where they can be monitored at all times.”

The NFF president assured that the hosting of the match was without any financial commitment to Nigeria.

“Nigeria has everything to gain and nothing to lose by hosting the match. Let us recall that, recently, our national under-20 women team played a 2016 FIFA U-20 World Cup qualifier in Liberia.

“The Liberian team also came to Nigeria for the return leg, without any health issues,’’ he said.

NAN recalls that since the Ebola virus pandemic ravaged some West African countries last year, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had taken some stringent measures.

It compelled Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to find alternative venues for home matches.

Consequently, these countries have played their home matches in countries like Ghana, Morocco, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali without any health issues.