Arsenal Cancel Pre-Season Tour of Nigeria

By IndepthAfrica
In Soccer
Jul 6th, 2012
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The much hyped Arsenal pre-season tour of Nigeria, which was to have kicked off with a match against the Super Eagles on August 5 is now off following the decision of the English club to postpone the trip.

In a posting on the club’s website Thursday, the London outfit said: “Arsenal Football Club has announced it is reluctantly postponing its proposed trip to Nigeria this summer.”

The Gunners declined to go into specific details for the postponement but only said: “The club has taken the decision as a result of complexities linked to the planned game against the Super Eagles on Saturday, August 5 in Abuja.”

According to the Arsenal Marketing Director, Angus Kinnear: “Bringing a top-level club to an international market is always complicated and logistically challenging. With the proposed match in Nigeria planned for early August, we could not get comfortable on everything needed to satisfy our requirements, so we have reluctantly taken the decision to postpone the team’s visit.”

Kinnear continued: “We have a huge and loyal following in Africa, and we are sorry that the team will not be visiting this summer. However, we have a long-term commitment to Nigeria and we are already making plans for a visit next summer.

“In addition, we also have some exciting forthcoming activities planned with our commercial partners in Nigeria – Emirates, Airtel and Malta Guinness, which will kick off in the next few weeks.”

However, the club’s decision may not be unconnected to the fact that the pitch of the Abuja National Stadium, where the match was to have taken place, is not in very good condition.

According to reports about N30 million will be needed to get the pitch back into its proper shape but even if the money is available there might not be enough time to complete the grassing before the now cancelled friendly.

Only recently Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said the Federal Government could not be armtwisted into rushing to fix the stadium on account of Arsenal’s visit to the country.

Speaking during a visit to his office by the Board and Management of the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) Abdullahi said: “I was told that Arsenal wants to come to Nigeria on a playing tour, but it is not a national team. It is only a private football team coming on a training tour of Nigeria. So whether Arsenal is coming on a training tour to Nigeria does not concern the Federal Government.

“If we want to talk about how we are going to improve our pitch, it has nothing to do with Arsenal coming to play in Nigeria!”

Only a fortnight ago a security team from the London club was in the country to check on security and other logistics ahead of the much publicised tour.

It was learnt that the club, not satisfied with the medical facilities in the country, had even planned to bring a state-of-the-art mobile clinic, which would have accompanied the team to venues of the three matches lined up for the Gunners during their visit to Nigeria.

Meanwhile one of the club’s principal sponsors, Emirates has also reacted to the news, which broke Thursday evening.

Emirates are the presenting partner of the Arsenal 2012 Tour and Boutros Boutros, divisional senior vice-president of corporate communications said: “Emirates shares Arsenal’s disappointment that the team’s visit to Nigeria has been postponed. We look forward to working with Arsenal to bring the Club closer to its loyal Nigerian fans through new initiatives over the coming months.”

All further updates on Arsenal’s future activities in Nigeria will be communicated on www.Arsenal.com, the report concluded.

The trip would have been the Gunners’ first to Africa’s most populous nation and would have come on the heels of a whistle stop visit by former Premier League champions, Manchester United a few years ago.

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