The pitch of the National Stadium, Abuja is in a bad state
By Olawale Ajimotokan
The House of Representatives have condemned the cancellation of Arsenal playing tour of Nigeria as a monumental embarrassment.
Arsenal, which had lined up a friendly match with Nigeria on August 5, last week called off the visit, as they were no longer comfortable with everything needed to satisfy their requirements.
But the Chairman of House Committee on Sports, Hon Godfrey Gaiya, Saturday night fumed that the call off was a dent on the pride of the country.
It was meant to be Arsenal’s first visit to West Africa.
Gaiya noted that the national team had lost a perfect opportunity to test its strength against a high profile Arsenal which is one of the top clubs in the English Premier League.
Instead of blaming the ‘Gunners’ for the decision, he said the house is ashamed that Nigeria lacked a standard stadium where it can host international engagements.
“Surely, this is a humiliation and the House is embarrassed that we don’t have a national stadium that we bring in people at any time to come and play. We are disgusted that Nigeria cannot maintain a stadium of international standard, that even a club side from Europe can come and tell us that our pitch is not playable. We can do better with our passion for football coupled with the resources at our disposal,” Gaiya lamented.
According to him, Arsenal had genuine ground to back out of the tour as no one could expect them to risk their players by playing on the National Stadium which has not been maintained in the past eight months.
“The place (National Stadium) is an eyesore and no team will risk its players by playing on that pitch. We cannot always hope for miracles. You can’t blame Arsenal for not bringing its players to a bad surface. They have the right to cancel the trip if the business conditions are not right”.
The National Stadium suddenly lost its appeal a few months after two Arsenal management officials, Angus Kinnear and Paul Johnson, approved the stadium after running a check on it and other facilities in Abuja late last year.
But in a dramatic twist, the pitch suddenly turned spongy due to lack of water, occasioned by the theft of cables supplying electricity to the stadium.
Arising from that, the groundskeepers could not sprinkle the pitch, leading to its current sorry state.
It was also the same reason that informed the Super Eagles to play their last two international home matches in Calabar.