Nigerian athletes were in ecstatic mood on Thursday after the Federal Government lifted the ban on football and all other contact sports in the country with effect from Monday Oct 19.
The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, in a briefing in Abuja on Thursday, said the FG had decided to ease the restrictions on football and other contact sports in the country.
Aliyu said the decision was arrived at after consultation with the sports ministry and the National Centre for Disease Control.
He however announced that the games would take place behind closed doors.
Aliyu stated, “It is also time for sports to open, but to open safely and in this regard, we have continued with providing guidelines and engagement with states to ensure close supervision and oversight as sports reopen.
“The lifting of restrictions on outdoor sporting activities including football is in line with earlier consultation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the National Centre for Disease Control. However, this is limited to the actual sports itself, not with mass gatherings.
“In this regard, mass gatherings including at sports events are still restricted, as this represents an opportunity for the virus to spread with an increased risk of a second wave.”
There were calls on social media on Thursday for the return of contact sports with people using the #LiftBanOnSports and #LiftBanOnContactSports hashtags after the FG had only announced the return of non-contact sports in August.
Sports minister, Sunday Dare, said the removal of the ban was a welcome development.
“We welcome the lifting of the ban on football by the PTF. The lifting of restrictions on outdoor activities including football is in line with earlier consultations with the Ministry of Youth and Sports and NCDC. However, this is limited to the actual sports itself and not mass gathering,” Dare tweeted.
The announcement came as a relief to the country’s athletes, who had been in the dark over the resumption of contact sports, after a seven-month lull.
“I’m happy because we will be able to go back to work and start football again. This is good news for all the footballers in the country,” Rivers United midfielder Kehinde Adedipe said
“I just returned from training now when someone told me about the FG’s announcement. We have been waiting for a long time and praying for the return,” Osimaga Duke of NPFL side Dakadda added.
Boxer Afeez Osoba, a 2019 African Games boxing silver medalist, stated, “I’m extremely happy with the resumption of sports. I’ve been training so that I’ll be prepared when the ban will be lifted.”