The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa has issued a football safety warning to Nigerians residing in the country before the two nations lock horns in their AFCON semi-final game on Wednesday.
According to BBC, the warning, which urges Nigerian football fans to desist from “loud, riotous or provocative celebrations” if the Super Eagles emerge victorious against South Africa, has sparked a diplomatic row between the two African nations.
The warning was also issued as an effort to avoid the instigation of any xenophobic attacks on Nigerians by angered Bafana Bafana fans. In Tuesday’s statement, the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa explained that it sent out the warning after its attention was drawn to “veiled” online “threats” from a section of South Africans.
“In this regard, the High Commission hereby advises the Nigerian community to be watchful of their utterances, be mindful of where they choose to watch the match especially in public places, and refrain from engaging in loud, riotous or provocative celebrations should the Super Eagles win the match,” the statement said.
But South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) in a statement on Tuesday described the warning as a “false alarm.” “The advisory is regrettable, because it seems to create alarm and unnecessary tension between the citizens of South Africa and Nigerians living in or visiting South Africa,” the statement said.
“The South African national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, has played against their Nigerian counterparts, the Super Eagles, on many occasions, and there has been no history of soccer hooliganism among South Africans associated with the outcome of such encounters,” the statement added.
“We are confident that the sports-loving nation of South Africa poses no threat to Nigerian citizens, and we do not agree with the apprehension expressed by the High Commission.”
Xenophobic attacks in South Africa have been rife over the last couple of years. Africans who have relocated to the country for greener pastures are usually targeted.
The Super Eagles’ semi-final game against Bafana Bafana will kick off at 5 pm GMT. Hosts Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo will play the other semi-final game at 8 pm GMT.