By Femi Solaja
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is believed to have settled for the Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State to host the international friendly between the Super Eagles and the Pharaohs of Egypt and the dead-rubber last 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying Group B match against Seychelles.
A top official in the Glass House in Abuja confirmed to THISDAY in a telephone interview last night that the deal to host the two matches in Asaba is almost a done deal because the Delta State Government has agreed to take 70 per cent of the cost to prosecute the matches.
“We have reached the final phase of discussion and all seem to be done deal as the Asaba stadium will stage the matches all things been equal,” the top official who did not want to be named confirmed yesterday evening.
The final group stage match against Seychelles is inconsequential as the Super Eagles had already qualified and topped the AFCON 2019 group. Another decent football source revealed that the main reason why Delta State negotiated to stage both matches was primarily because of the attraction of having the six-time African champions Egypt in Asaba.
The international match against Egypt will attract top players like Mohammed Salah of Liverpool FC, Mohammed El-Shenawy and Ahmed Hegazi.
The Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration is said to be passionate about sports tourism and a visit of the top English Premiership star will be a big boost to Asaba and neighboring towns within the state.
“When Asaba hosted the African Athletic Championships, cynics lampooned the governor for the huge amount spent to stage the five-day event that was engulfed by many flaws but the presence of top athletes in the continent at the event boosted tourism not only in Asaba but Delta State as a whole,” the top official explained.
But should NFF go ahead with its plans for the matches, it will be against the thoughts of the team’s Head Coach, Gernot Rohr, who has over times complained about the state of the pitch and location of the dressing room during last month’s ‘Round Table Session’ with senior sports journalists in Lagos.
“Asaba fans are very friendly and passionate about the team but the pitch was very difficult for us to play just as the location of the dressing room when the team bus makes final stop is another problem,” the Franco-German coach pointed out at the forum.
Since the refurbishment of the stadium, it has played host to 2018 Aiteo Cup final as well as the international friendly against Cranes of Uganda.
The official game against Seychelles will hold March 21 before the Pharaohs storm Asaba five days later for the game primarily aimed at keeping Super Eagles in shape for the 2019 AFCON scheduled to hold in June. CAF is to name the host country for the continental showpiece on June 9. Both South Africa and Egypt are in the running to host.