The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has revealed that it was politics that took the Super Eagles out of Port Harcourt as a host state of the senior national team.
The Super Eagles began their campaign for the Russia 2018 World Cup with a resounding 2-0 victory over Swaziland at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt.
The home matches of the team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers were originally scheduled for Port Harcourt but the team ended up not kicking a ball at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium throughout the campaign.
Wike exclusively revealed that the Nigeria Football Federation obviously had a change of heart after the incident surrounding the Nigeria, Tanzania match in 2016. He said the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifier was billed for the Garden City but the notice given by the NFF was short.
The Governor said: “The NFF did not inform us on time about the match and we had already endorsed a church crusade at the same stadium for same day. I asked if the match could be moved they said no.
“I was the one who called my colleague in Akwa Ibom State (Emmanuel Udom) and pleaded with him to host the match. After that time, the team has been taken here and there and they never came back here.”
Wike stressed that the state would not beg to host Super Eagles games and he also debunked insinuations that the facilities in the state were not good enough.
He added: “We have two world-class stadia in Port Harcourt city in good condition. One is grass and the other is synthetic. I will always support the Super Eagles as a Nigerian but the federation officials are the ones who could explain why Eagles are no longer coming to Rivers State.
“I take this to be football politics but it’s okay. I love sports and will continue to boost it. We have been helping other sports in a great way. The investment of the state in wrestling is huge. We hosted polo as well last year and it is clear we are a sports-loving state. I can tell you that some officials of the federation cannot look at me in the eyes anytime we meet.”
The President of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick, however explained to journalists last year that the choice of Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo was due to the convenience of the players.
“The players are the main actors and they say they had found home in Uyo. We have to respect that and there are no strings attached. All states that hosted before and still plan to host the Super Eagles are partners to the federation and we appreciate them all,” Pinnick said.
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