By Amaechi Agbo
The federal government has threatened to ban contact sports again in the country if the Edo State Government and the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF fail to observe COVID-19 measures before, during and after the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match holding this Friday in Benin
This is coming as the government ordered that the matchday 3 of the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Leone Stars of Sierra Leone will be played without fans.
The first leg of the 2022 AFCON qualifiers between the two nations will take place at the Samuel Ogbomudia Stadium, Benin, Edo State on Friday and Edo state government directed that the gate be thrown open for fans to come and watch the match.
But the federal government through the ministry of youth and sports and the Presidential Task Focre on COVID-19, PTF has directed that the match must be played without fans as part of measures to curtail the spread of the dreaded virus.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the PTF advised the Edo State Government and the Nigerian Football Federation against breaching the covid-19 protocol by not allowing fans into the Nations Cup game against Sierra Leone.
The federal government also ordered that players and officials of the two countries must be tested before the match to ensure that they are covid-19 free
In a letter to the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Comrade Philip Shaibu, the Ministry said “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 (PTF) 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 further disclosed” 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 roll back 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 a second wave of Covid-19 and is considering another lockdown.
The Edo State Government had announced that the gates would be thrown open to allow fans watch the game.
The match is billed for the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin by 5pm Nigerian time.
It could be recalled that sporting activities were suspended in the country in March following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in February this year.
After due pressure, the Federal government in October lifted ban on contact sports and Nigeria V Sierra Leone match in the fist international football to be played