Nigeria’s delegation to Tuesday’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match against Sierra Leone has arrived in Freetown on Monday.
Ademola Olajire, Director of Communications at the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), in a statement, said the team arrived in the afternoon from Benin.
He said the team had proceeded on a 30-minute ferry ride on the Atlantic from the International Airport in Lungi to the Sierra Leonean capital.
“The chartered aircraft touched down at the airport in Lungi at 12:15 p.m. local time.
“Players and officials were received by the Charge d’Affaires of the Nigeria High Commission, Sona Charles, the Consular, Paul Alabi, and some members of the Sierra Leone Football Association,” Mr Olajire said.
He however disclosed that there was a hiccup at the airport as Sierra Leonean immigration officials insisted that the Nigerian players and officials must undergo COVID-19 tests right at the airport.
“This was even after evidence was provided by the Nigerian team that all delegation members did the tests and all returned negative just hours before boarding their flight in Benin City.
“Top officials from the Nigeria High Commission and the Leader of Delegation, Ibrahim Gusau, tried to convince the Sierra Leonean immigration officials.
”They tried to make them understand that the results obtained a few hours earlier were sufficient for the delegation members to enter into Freetown, prosecute the match and return to Nigeria.
”But this failed to sway the officials.
“Further pleas to allow the players and officials leave the airport and for Sierra Leone to send medical officials to conduct the tests at the team hotel fell on deaf ears.
“After the tests, the players and officials boarded the ferry and eventually arrived at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown just before 3 p.m. local time (4 p.m. in Nigeria),” Mr Olajire said.
The NFF spokesman added that team’s head coach Gernot Rohr and his technical team led a total of 22 players and backroom staff.
“The Eagles were due to have their official training at the Siaka Stevens Stadium (venue of Tuesday’s match) on Monday evening.
“The delegation also included Emmanuel Ikpeme (NFF Deputy General Secretary); Bola Oyeyode (Director of Competitions); Augustine Eguavoen (Technical Director); and Olajire (Director of Media and Communications).
“Others are Nasiru Jibril (Chief Technical Officer); Emmanuel Ayanbunmi (Protocol Officer); Mohammed Ameenu (SA to General Secretary) and Ayo Olu-Ibidapo (Media Officer),” he said.
Mr Olajire also disclosed that the Confederation of African Football (CAF) had appointed Guinean officials led by Tawel Camara Younoussa for the match.
“Younoussa was appointed as Centre Referee and with his compatriots, namely Sidiki Sidibe (Assistant Referee 1), Abdoulaye Sylla (Assistant Referee 2) and Bangaly Konate (Fourth Official).
“The match commissioner is Silvestre Cantussan from Guinea Bissau,” he said.
NAN reports that Tuesday’s match will kick off at 4 p.m. local time (5 p.m. Nigeria time).