This Day (Lagos)

7 November 2012

Nigeria: Venezuelan Friendly - Eagles Sweat Over U.S. Visas

Photo: Vanguard
Nigeria's Super Eagles training.

There was palpable tension on Wednesday over travel plans for the national team, the Super Eagles, ahead of the international friendly against Venezuela, scheduled for Miami in the United States, November 14, as the American Embassy in Abuja, seemed to be foot-dragging over the issuance of visas.

The Ministry of External Affairs had tried to make the issuance of the visas easy for the Eagles by issuing a 'Note Verba' for the team to the USA Embassy, but that was rejected, as officials of the embassy reportedly said the team was not entitled to such diplomatic treatment.

The Embassy thereafter fixed Friday, November 9 for the team to appear at its consulate for visa interviews while the team is scheduled to travel out on Sunday, November 11, the fear in the camp of the team is that the visas may not be issued same day to the team and that may upset travel plans already perfected by the NFF for the first international friendly after the team's qualification for the SA 2013 Nations Cup.

A top official of the team however assured that going by the smooth relationship between the Nigerian government on one hand and its American counterpart, he was sure that the visas will be ready on time for the team's departure on Sunday.

"We have a smooth relationship with the USA Embassy and we are sure they will make the issuance of visas easy, but we also have to let government at the highest level know what we are going through," the official declared.

Already, Senate President David Mark and Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdulahi, have intervened in the matter to ensure that Super Eagles players and officials get the needed travel documents for the trip on Sunday.

The two top government officials are said to be pulling the strings at the highest diplomatic levels to ensure that the November 14 game sees the light of day.

Meanwhile, all the 24 home-based players invited for the Venezuelan friendly are now in camp, even as Head Coach, Stephen Keshi ruled out the likes of Gabriel Reuben, Papa Idris, Joseph Yobo and Osaze Odemwingie from the trip due to injuries and club commitment.

"We don't want to rush them back into the national team because we already know what they can do, let them heal well and then we hope they will be in good shape for the Nations Cup championship proper," he said.

The last two players to arrive camp Tuesday night were Ejike Uzoenyi of Rangers International, who took special permission to arrive late and Kano Pillars' Gambo Mohammed, whose late arrival was due to the four-club tournament in Niamey, Niger Republic last week.

The duo has since jelled into the squad's training regime.

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