Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan
By Olawale Ajimotokan
The attitude of the Ibadan spectators for staying away from international matches appears to be working against the choice of Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan from getting the nod to host the Super Eagles’ crunchy World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in June.
Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is frantically in search of a venue where Nigeria will play its home matches against Namibia and Rwanda on June 2 and 16 respectively following the poor state of the pitch at the National Stadium, Abuja.
Ibadan has been placed on the standby in the light of security concern about the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna after the city was bombed on Easter Sunday by extremist sect, Boko Haram, leaving many people dead.
Majority of the stadiums across the country, including Lagos, Benin, Port Harcourt, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta have been declared as unsuitable because they are only fitted with plastic turfs which the Super Eagles always complain of playing on.
This development has made only Ibadan, Owerri and Calabar as the centres likely to be considered because they have natural grass.
The Eagles defeated Madagascar 2-0 in Calabar on September 5, 2010 in their unsuccessful quest to reach Equatorial Guinea and Gabon 2012 and last played an official match in Ibadan on June 11, 1994, beating Georgia 5-0 in a friendly match.
But an official of the federation, who did not want to be mentioned, told us last night that though Liberty Stadium was being discussed because of its good pitch, the federation is wary about the likely lack of support for the Eagles in the ancient city of Ibadan
Though Ibadan is the biggest city in the country and third in Africa, its spectators are famed for always staying away from international matches, leaving a swathe of empty seats inside the stadium.
Officials are ready to point at the attitude of the spectators, who stayed away from the matches when Ibadan was listed as one of the centres during the FIFA U-20 World Cup held in Nigeria in 1999.
“We were all let down the last time Ibadan was allowed to stage international matches because the stadium was empty during Nigeria ‘99. We need a packed stadium to create an atmosphere that will inspire the Eagles in their two home matches in June and we are not too particularly sure if Ibadan can provide that“, he said.
It is this historical antecedent and need to explore other options that have informed a delay in making a decision by the NFF, less than 50 days to the visit of Namibia for a Brazil 2014 qualifying match.
NFF President Aminu Maigari had last week admitted that there was no decision on where the Eagles would play their forthcoming home matches as the federation was still studying the situation.