Nigeria warns its citizens in SA not to celebrate openly in case of win

Africa Cup of Nations

A Nigeria's supporter poses after the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 round of 16 football match between Nigeria and Cameroon in Abidjan on January 27, 2024.

Photo credit: Issouf Sanogo | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The Nigerian citizens residing in  South Africa fear they could face hostility from  their hosts if Super Eagles defeat Bafana Bafana  in Bouake today.
  • Concerned about safety of Nigeria’s nationals in South Africa, the High Commission on Monday issued an advisory.

In Abuja

The clash of the titans today involving big foes -- Nigeria and South Africa -- in the semi-final of the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) has ignited fears among Nigerians living in the rainbow country.

The Nigerian citizens residing in  South Africa fear they could face hostility from  their hosts if Super Eagles defeat Bafana Bafana  in Bouake today.

Concerned about safety of Nigeria’s nationals in South Africa, the High Commission on Monday issued an advisory.

“The attention of the Nigeria High Commission in Pretoria has been drawn to potentially inflammatory online comments made by a section of South African citizens against Nigerians living in the host country,” the High Commission said in a statement.

“Most of the comments consist of veiled threats against “Nigerians cooking jollof rice” before the match, and “showing pepper to Nigerians if the Bafana Bafana lose to the Super Eagles,” the High Commission said.

The High Commission urged Nigerians in South Africa to be mindful of their utterances, as well as where they choose to watch the match, especially in public places.

It also advised Nigerians to refrain from engaging in “loud, riotous or provocative celebrations should the Super Eagles win the match’’.

The High Commission encouraged the South Africa-residing Nigerians to continue to remain law abiding and report to the appropriate authorities should any provocation occur.

There has been a history of xenophobic attacks against Nigerians living in or visiting South Africa over the years and the feeling has continued and could escalate in the event of defeat of South Africa.

Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria, in 2022 alerted Nigerians living in South Africa of a planned attack on foreign nationals. 

“This is to advise Nigerians living in South Africa to be vigilant and exercise caution in their activities due to the recent utterances of the proponents of the Operation Dudula and their threats to attack foreign nationals in this country,” an August 2022 memo reads. 

In 2019, at least 10 deaths were recorded, including two foreigners, and many businesses were destroyed, prompting Nigeria to recall its ambassador while President Muhammadu Buhari sent a special envoy to South Africa.’

Analysts believe the semi-final duels will be fiercely fought.

Nigeria, the highest ranked team in the tournament, will lock horns with perennial foes South Africa at the Stade de la Paix, Bouake from 8pm (Kenyan time).

Nigeria have won three Afcon titles while South Africa have claimed one. South Africa after many years of banishment due to apartheid,  returning to the international football family with a bang.

They were crowned Africa Nations Cup  champions at their inaugural tournament in 1996, and went on to finish second and third in 1998 and 2000.

However, Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the 2021 edition, and will be keen to make up for lost time.

Out of seven final appearances, Nigeria were crowned Afcon champions on three occasions, 1980, 1994 and 2013. The Super Eagles have also finished third on eight occasions, most recently in 2019.  It has now been over 10 years since Nigeria lifted the Afcon trophy. 

The two sides have come face-to-face 14 times, with the first fixture on 1992.

They last met at the 2019 Afcon held in Egypt. Both sides qualified for the Round of 16, with Nigeria finishing second in Group “B” and South Africa third in Group “D”. 

The sides then found themselves clashing in the quarter-finals with Super Eagles emerging victorious. 

South Africa coach Hugo Broos says he will approach the semi-final against Nigeria differently from Bafana Bafana’s style in their quarter-final game against Cape Verde.

Bafana Bafana secured their place in the semi-finals for the first time since 2000.

“We will not lose focus. The players will be in good condition,” he said. 

He noted that the pressure of qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time in over 20 years  made the game tougher.

He said  that not many people in South Africa believed in the team and he was proud of what his boys had achieved so far.

“In spite of all the doubts, we believed in it, and the players believed in themselves as well.’’

The Super Eagles coach, Jose Peseiro, said his team want to beat South Africa whether in 90 minutes, 120 minutes or penalties.

Peseiro insisted that he was not thinking about South Africa’s penalty-saving specialist Ronwen Williams.

“We have to prepare the team well to be focused and show a good mentality. Our players deserve to reach the final but we need to beat South Africa in a hard match.” 

Fanny Amun, a former Super Eagles coach, advised the team not to underrate South Africa.

“The past of the two teams does not really matter. With each match I’ve seen improvement. 

“We should be prepared to give our best. 

“We shouldn’t underrate a team that has made it to the semi-finals. 

“There must be a winner. Let’s cross this semi-final bridge first then from there we will see how it goes.

“But I can tell you the final will be very exciting. This year’s edition of Afcon has been filled with pleasant surprises,” he said.

Ebere Amaraizu, former board member and South-East Director, Nationwide League One urged the Super Eagles to fine-tune their midfield before their encounter with South Africa.