The Nigeria delegation to Saturday’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil qualifying match against Malawi in Blantyre finally departed the country Friday morning, as officials of the chartered Air Jordan aircraft opted for strict safety rules in line with global best practices.
The delegation was to depart from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Thursday evening, but once the 6pm departure time was no longer possible, the airline was told that it would not be able to land at the Kinshasa International Airport to re-fuel as that airport closes at 10pm.
Another option was the Brazzaville International Airport, close to Kinshasa, but the Brazzaville Airport informed the pilot of the Air Jordan aircraft that the airport also closes at 10pm. That left only the option of Luanda International Airport, Angola.
“It would not be wise to take off now having only one option of landing to re-fuel. It is not sensible. I would rather we have up to two, three options so that we can make a choice if the preferred option proves unavailable, for one reason or the other,” the pilot told Nigerian football officials.
“I would prefer that we take off in the morning when all the airports are open,” he said.
Officials of the Nigeria Football Federation agreed with him and held a brief meeting with Super Eagles’ Head Coach, Stephen Keshi, who promptly conveyed the message to his crew and players. Players and officials returned to the hotel for the night finally departed from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport aboard the Air Jordan flight at 6am on Friday.
The new schedule will still afford the Super Eagles time to train at the Kamuzu Stadium on Friday evening before the match on Saturday.