Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Super Eagles will play their World Cup 2018 home qualifying matches at the National Stadium, Abuja, THISDAY checks revealed last night.
The return will be the first time the national team will be playing at the nation’s capital since they defeated Sudan 3-1 on October 15, 2014, in an Africa Cup of Nations (Equatorial Guinea 2015) qualifier.
Nigeria is pitched in an onerous “Champions League’’ Group B made up of Algeria, Cameroun and Zambia- all former winners of the Africa Cup of Nations- following last Friday’s draw in Cairo by CAF.
The Eagles will begin their bid for a sixth World Cup slot, when they travel to Zambia on October 3 for the opening group encounter before they host the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun on September 2, 2017 at the National Stadium, Abuja.
THISDAY scooped that Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, monday at a meeting with the NFF leadership, instructed that all three home fixtures be played in Abuja.
The basis of his directive is hinged on security in addition to allowing many Nigerian spectators watch the fixtures in view of the profile of opposing teams.
Apart from that ‘Glasshouse’ is cautious of a poor decision of organising a match of high magnitude in a stadium with little capacity for large spectators.
The federation is still smarting from the consequences of the security breaches and poor crowd control that marred the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Nigeria and Egypt in Kaduna on March 25.
That shoddy arrangement where over 40,000 fans were packed into a stadium that could barely contain 15,000 spectators made CAF to impose a $5,000 fine on NFF, with a warning of stiffer sanctions in the event of a repeat in the future.
Eagles played all their Brazil 2014 home matches at the U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar, which has a limited space for only 20,000 spectators.
The National Stadium, built in 2003 for the All Africa Games same year, has a capacity for 60,000 and was the theatre when Nigeria realised her dream of qualifying for the first World Cup held on African soil at South Africa 2010.