Weah's Security not Guaranteed, Says Nigerian Official

The Perspective

July 25, 2001

The build-up to the Nigeria VS Ghana match this Saturday, July 29, in Port Harcout, Nigeria, which determines who qualifies in Zone B for the 2002 World Cup tournament in Korea/Japan is generating intense passions in communities of African football lovers. Currently, the Zone B is led by Liberia with 15 points, followed by Nigeria with 13 points. Should Nigeria defeat Ghana, that should qualify her as leader of the Zone. Conversely, if she draws with Ghana, that automatically qualifies Liberia. Zone B is yet to find a leader. Meanwhile, Cameroon, Senegal, Tunisia and South Africa have all qualified in their respective zones and shall represent Africa in the 2002 World Cup.

But the Nigeria-Ghana match has generating tremendous interest not only because of the countries involved, but there is also the lingering presence of a third element - George Oppong Weah and Liberia. Ghana and Nigeria, two of Africa's soccer giants, have had a long, feuding rivalry for Africa's soccer supremacy. And based on the annals of Africa's soccer history, Ghana has had a dominance and upper hand in well over 43 matches played. So Ghana may again be well-position to outperform Nigeria. But it is Nigeria that has represented Africa in recent times at World Cup tournaments.

So it is not surprising that Nigeria now considers it an entitlement to represent Africa in the 2002 World Cup, and is said to be feverishly working at all cost to ensure that it qualifies. Recent reports circulating in West African media about money changing hands between these two countries sports officials, and an attempt by Nigeria to "overbuy" the match, has raised concerns as to whether the match would be played with fairness.

The Liberian Inquirer newspaper reported in its article posted on July 28, 2001, that: "Prior to the Sierra Leone/Liberia match, sports officials reportedly went to the former since she was financially strained. However, Liberia managed a narrow 1-0 win over Sierra Leone thus putting Nigeria under pressure.

"A Ghanaian daily reported that before the Ghana/Nigeria duel (the first leg of the World Cup 2002 qualifier) officials of Nigeria went to Ghana to overbuy the match. Ghana allegedly refused according to the daily because of an alleged ill treatment meted against GFA officials during the 2000 Nation's Cup Final in Nigeria."

But what is even more disturbing is comment made by a Nigerian official, the Rivers State Commissioner for Sports, Igo Aguma, that Nigeria would not guarantee the security of George Weah, who it is speculated has expressed an interest to travel to Nigeria to observe the match.

"I know that a distraction from his personality would need a lot of security for me to protect him...So, I will advise him to watch the match on TV rather than coming there live "We know what he had done for African football, but football is a game of passion and the atmosphere would be so charged," the commissioner said.

Amid these developments, FIFA and African Football lovers would be keenly watching the outcome of this match.

Meanwhile, BBC African Football has informed The Perspective that its web site (http://www.bbc.co.uk/africanfootball) "will provide minute by minute live coverage of the Nigeria-Ghana game which takes place this Sunday 29/7/01 at 15:00GMT."

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