Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Nigeria: Govt Reconsider World Cup Viewing Centers After Attack

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Nigeria's players celebrate their victory, 16 years after last winning a World Cup encounter.

Free TV channels in Nigeria don't show the World Cup. But for about 25 cents, fans across the country can enjoy the game at "viewing centers," which are often as informal as a television set and a bunch of chairs.

In northeastern Nigeria, where a five-year Islamist insurgency has killed thousands of people and crushed the economy, football is one of the few pleasures left.

Beauty Zopti, a fan, lives in Bauchi, a northern state bordering Yobe, where the bomb hit fans during the Brazil-Mexico World Cup match Tuesday night.

"I do go to viewing center to watch football. But due to what is happening now, I think one should rethink," Zopti said. "Because definitely I'm thinking of watching it at home, because going to the viewing center has become something else with the recent bombing all over."

At the end of May, 40 people were killed watching a football match at a viewing center in Adamawa state. Two weeks earlier, in Plateau state, security forces stopped an attempted attack on a viewing center, but three people were still killed, including the bomber.

Boko Haram

Based in the northeastern city of Maiduguri

Self-proclaimed leader is Abubakar Shekau

Began in 2002 as a non-violent Islamist splinter group

Launched uprising in 2009

Has killed thousands since 2010

Boko Haram translates to "Western education is sinful"

Wants Nigeria to adopt strict Islamic law

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks Tuesday, that killed 21 people in Damaturu, but Boko Haram insurgents are widely blamed.

The insurgency appears to have escalated in recent months, with more than 2,000 people killed this year alone and hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped. The girls have been held captive now for over two months.

"Massacres have been occurring with regularity and some communities have actually been wiped out over the last six weeks. So the evidence is clear that the insurgency is getting worse," noted Jibrin Ibrahim, the executive director of the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja.

According to the United Nations, roughly half a million people have fled their homes because of the violence.

Boko Haram preaches its own harsh version of Islamic law that rejects all things Western, which, to them, includes football. But TV ratings show nothing is more African than football, with at least 17.5 million people in Nigeria alone watching the Nigeria-Iran matchup Monday night.

Meanwhile in Brazil, members of the Nigerian national team say news of the attack on citizens watching them play in the World Cup has strengthened their resolve to win.

"In fact we are more than ever determined that the only way we can console or condole these people that lost their lives or who are injured, to is just do one thing, go ahead and beat Bosnia and qualify for the next round of the World Cup," team official Emanuel Attah told Reuters news agency.

Attah also appealed to those responsible for the attack to renounce violence.

"That's why we are appealing to all those behind it - some of them must have played football before, some of them must have been football fans - appealing to them to please give their luck a chance and let all this bombing and killing stop. It's not good for us," he said.

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