Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Doubts on Arsenal tour of Nigeria due to security issues


Passionate football lovers in Nigeria, who already look forward to the proposed Arsenal pre-season playing tour of the country in June, may have their hopes dashed if feelers emanating from the English Premier League club are anything to go by.

Stakeholders in the English Premier League side are beginning to query the rationale behind taking the players on a tour of a country 'plagued by terrorist bomb blasts.'

Arsenal officials had last month visited Nigeria to inspect facilities and met with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to discuss the tour, scheduled for July.

Also, in mid January 2012, organisers of the proposed tour, DanJan Sports, which features Razaq Bello-Osagie, Shehu Dikko and David Omigie met with Arsenal officials at the Emirates Stadium to finalise details for the planned visit, which will be the club's first ever visit to Africa.

Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger, according to the club, has ratified summer tour of Nigeria, but concerned members of the club wonder if safety is an issue.

'The powers that be who pull the purse strings are keen to cash in on the fact that Arsenal have the biggest fan base (in Nigeria) of any Premier League side (basically because of Nwankwo Kanu who played for the Gunners between 1999 and 2004) and they reason that taking the brand there makes sense for so many reasons,' said the stakeholders in a memo posted on Arsenal's website where posers were raised about the Nigeria tour.

'But is safety an issue? The country (Nigeria) has endured spates of sectarian violence over the years, though some of the conflict stems from economic and political factors as well.

'The militant group, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for multiple bombings in the northern city of Kano that killed at least 185 people.

Boko Haram killed more than 500 people last year and more than 250 in the first weeks of 2012 in gun and bomb attacks. President Goodluck Jonathan has said members of the Islamist sect have infiltrated the security services and all areas of government.

'Naturally, security must have been discussed and presumably the club is happy with the assurances they have received that their safety will be guaranteed. Will that change if troubles escalate?'

Despite plans that Arsenal matches during the pre-season tour would be played in Lagos and Abuja, which are relatively peaceful, the stakeholders pointed out that bomb blasts have occurred in Abuja, while soldiers were deployed on the streets of Lagos only a few weeks ago to quell protests against the removal of petroleum subsidy.

The stakeholders urged Arsenal to instead 'hop over the pond to the United States, given that owner Stan Kroenke is an American.'

Efforts made at reaching the Nigerian promoters of the pre-season tour for their reaction to the development proved abortive. Calls made to Shehu Dikko's mobile telephone repeatedly yielded a 'not available' feedback.

DanJan Sports had in 2008 facilitated a pre-season tour of Nigeria by Manchester United and Portsmouth.

The Moment

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