KANO, June 11, 2014 (AFP) – Boko Haram attacks on football fans have forced the closure of centres for watching the World Cup in northeast Nigeria, a state government official said yesterday.
The government of Adamawa state said it had been warned by the local military that the so-called “viewing centres” – where large crowds congregate to watch matches on big screens – were possible targets.
“Based on this advice, we have directed all soccer viewing centres across the state to close down indefinitely,” said Ahmed Sajo, spokesman for the state governor, Murtala Nyako.
The centres have been targeted before in Nigeria, where football has a fanatical following and the national team, the “Super Eagles”, are playing in the showpiece tournament in Brazil.
Last month, three people were killed in a blast outside a viewing centre showing the European Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the central city of Jos.
In April, suspected Boko Haram gunmen stormed a packed venue in Potiskum, in northeast Yobe state, shooting dead two people as they watched Champions League quarter-final matches.
Earlier this month, at least 40 people were killed when a bomb went off after a football match in the town of Mubi in Adamawa. The apparent target was fans trying to leave after the final whistle.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has previously preached against football as part of the Islamist group’s agenda to impose strict Islamic law in northern Nigeria. In several video clips, he described football and music as a Western ploy to distract Muslims from their religion.
Sajo said the government was concerned that fans in remote areas would ignore the ban, as they had no other means of recreation and because power cuts made watching matches at home impossible.
“We know this measure will adversely affect football lovers who will be deprived the opportunity to watch the World Cup tournament, which starts in two days,” he added.
“The ban will no doubt have economic implications as operators of the viewing centres will lose their source of income. Despite these adverse effects as a result of the ban we believe it a decision worth taking because security of life and property is very important.”