Nigeria missed the opportunity of an enviable fourth consecutive World Cup appearance when it failed to defeat the Black Stars of Ghana in one of the African play-offs decided at the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja on Tuesday, March 29.
The game ended 1-1. Ghana drew first blood in the 10th minute of play through captain, Thomas Partey while the Super Eagles skipper drew level nine minutes later. At the end of proceedings the Black Stars picked up one of the five African tickets, leaving Nigeria licking their wounds, with bruised ego, anger and frustration.
Nigeria would not be at the World Cup in Qatar but that is not the only news. Perhaps even more newsworthy is the disgraceful conduct of the Nigerian fans who, after the match, vented their anger and frustration on the visitors and everything in sight.
The angry Nigerian fans invaded the pitch as soon as the centre referee, Sadok Selmi from Tunisia signalled the end of the match, vandalising things even as they pelted the Ghanaian players, officials and their handful of travelling supporters with plastic bottles, causing them to run for dear lives.
Nigeia’s inability to qualify for the Mundial, especially on home soil triggered off the riotous act of the fans, which led to some losses. The first major loss is that Nigeria’s Super Eagles will be missing at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, the first time since 2010.
The Super Eagles players, who came highly rated, at least on paper, have lost the love and confidence of Nigerian fans and it will take them some good and convincing performances to win back the confidence
The invasion of the pitch and attack of Ghanaian players as well as their supporters has touched on the delicate fabric of the brotherly relationship between Nigeria and Ghana. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) may have to apologise to the Ghanaian authorities because the action of the Nigerian fans was most unbecoming of a brotherly neighbour.
The facilities at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium that were vandalised are losses that will cost money and time to replace. There were video footages showing dugouts being ripped apart and destroyed.
The unsportsmanly and disgraceful conduct of the Nigerian fans has rubbished the image of Nigeria. The country will be seen as one harbouring football hooligans and some people may be sceptical about going to the stadia, particularly the Abuja stadium, to watch football matches.
The events of Tuesday night at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium — the invasion of the pitch, attack on Ghanaian players, officials and supporters — will not go unnoticed by football-governing body in Africa, Confederation of African Football (CAF) and FIFA, and expectedly, they will impose sanctions on Nigeria.
Sanctions may include banning the stadium or banning of the spectators, which implies that whenever matches are to be played at that stadium, it will be without spectators. The sanctions will certainly include a fine. If any of the Black Stars property, like bus, is vandalised, the NFF may be asked to pay for the repairs.
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The biggest loss of the night was the death of Confederation of African Football (CAF) official, Joseph Kabungo, who is a Zambian national. The NFF confirmed the death of Kabungo but said he did not die as a result of stampede or beating, as being reported by the media but that the deceased was found gasping for air near a locker room as officials were testing players for doping. NFF General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi further said Kabungo was taken to an hospital but died shortly afterwards.
The NFF was silent about the exact time Kabungo was found gasping for air. Fortunately, the Football Federation of Zambia earlier suggested that Kabungo died of possible cardiac arrest. It is not clear when he died but what people will remember for a long time to is that the CAF official died in Nigeria on a night when everything went wrong for Nigeria and Nigerians. What a night!