Nigeria moved its upcoming World Cup and African Cup of Nations qualifiers on Thursday over fears about attacks from a radical Islamist sect and spiraling religious violence in the nation.
The Nigeria Football Federation issued a statement saying matches scheduled for June 3 and June 17 would be played at the U.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar, a city in the country’s far southeast. The federation earlier ruled out playing the matches at the National Stadium in the central capital of Abuja, saying the grass pitch there had not been looked after and would not be ready in time.
Nigeria will face Namibia in a World Cup qualifier on June 3, and then play Rwanda in their African Cup group.
“We looked at all the options available to us and we decided Calabar is the best choice for now,” the statement quoted federation President Aminu Maigari as saying.
Maigari said the decision had to be made now as FIFA wanted Nigeria to confirm a venue for the June 3 match by Friday.
The two qualifiers had been scheduled to be held in Kaduna, a central Nigeria city where an Easter suicide car bombing killed at least 41 people. A radical Islamist sect later carried out a bomb attack on an office building where newspaper correspondents work, killing at least four people.