A diplomatic dispute has flared up between Nigeria and South Africa ahead of their upcoming semi-final clash at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) this Wednesday.
The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa has cautioned Nigerian football enthusiasts against exuberant celebrations in the event of their team’s victory. This cautionary advice aimed to avert any potential escalation of xenophobic incidents provoked by disgruntled South African fans. However, South Africa has rebuffed these warnings, dismissing them as an “unfounded alarm.”
The historic rivalry between the Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana intensifies this clash of titans. In a released statement on Tuesday, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) refuted any past incidents of soccer-related violence by South African fans against Nigeria.
DIRCO stated, “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.”
“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.” DIRCO emphasised.
As of now, Nigeria has not issued a response to the South African authorities’ statement. In recent times, South Africa has witnessed a surge in xenophobic attacks targeting African migrants who have migrated in search of better economic prospects.
Nigeria’s diplomatic service justified its advisory by citing online indications of implicit threats by South Africans. It cautioned Nigerians in South Africa to exercise caution in their conduct, particularly in public spaces while watching the match, and to refrain from engaging in loud, disruptive, or inflammatory celebrations if the Super Eagles emerge victorious.
The match is set to commence at 17:00 GMT on Wednesday in the Ivorian city of Bouaké. Meanwhile, the other AFCON 2023 semi-final fixture features hosts Ivory Coast against the Democratic Republic of Congo.