Afcon: South Africa slams Nigeria for football safety warningon February 6, 2024 at 8:56 pm

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“Refrain from provocative celebrations,” Nigeria tells citizens in South Africa before the Afcon semi-final.

A Nigerian fan watching an Afcon match in Ivory Coast.Image source, AFP

A diplomatic row has broken out between Nigeria and South Africa ahead of the two sides’ semi-final match at the Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday.

The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa warned Nigerian football fans to refrain from boisterous celebrations if their team wins.

That warning was intended to prevent the provocation of xenophobic attacks by frustrated South African supporters.

But South Africa says that this has only created “false alarm”.

There has been a long-standing rivalry between the two footballing giants – the Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana.

But in its statement on Tuesday, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said there was “no history of soccer hooliganism among South Africans” at matches against Nigeria.

“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,” Dirco added.

“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.”

Nigeria has yet to respond to the statement from South African officials.

In recent years, South Africa has seen a wave of xenophobic attacks against Africans who have moved there from elsewhere in the continent, often for better economic opportunities.

In its statement earlier on Tuesday, Nigeria’s diplomatic service said it was issuing the warning because it had seen evidence of “veiled threats” by South Africans online.

It advised Nigerians living in South Africa 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”.

Kick-off is at 17:00 GMT on Wednesday in the Ivorian city of Bouaké.

The other semi-final is between the hosts Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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