Visas blow for Celtic’s Nigerian opponents

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Nigeria side Rivers United has been dealt a heavy blow ahead of their clash against Bloemfontein Celtic next Wednesday following a delay in the issuing of their visas.

Rivers has a Caf Confederation date against Celtic at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein in exactly five days’ time.

However, the Nigerians are yet to secure visas to travel to Johannesburg to fulfill the fixture and reports are that they risk missing the Round 2 tie.

The club had hoped to fly commercial on Friday, but the visa delay could force them to request the fixture to be postponed as they may be unable to get a direct flight in time.

Cameroon side PWD Bamenda faced a similar challenge ahead of their preliminary Caf Champions League tie against Kaizer Chiefs early this month and they eventually resorted to requesting the postponement of the tie from Caf.

The continental football mother body refused to move the game by 48 hours, only agreeing to a 24-hour change, which meant they would play barely five hours after arriving in Johannesburg.

The permanent secretary of the Rivers State Ministry of Sports, Honour Sirawoo, on Thursday told the Nigerian media that the Port Harcourt-based side met all demands by the South African Embassy but were still not issued visas.

“Up till this moment, we (officials and players) have not been granted visas by the South African Embassy in Abuja. One of our officials is still at the embassy in Abuja and we are hoping that it will be sorted out so that we can travel tomorrow (Friday),” Sirawoo said.

Rivers eliminated Equatorial Guinea outfit Futuro Kings on penalties in the preliminary round to set up a clash against Siwelele. The two clubs had won on a similar 2-1 scoreline at home.

Rivers United media officer, Charles Mayuku, said the club might miss the only available flight to South Africa if they were not issued visas on time. “We have been able to get one flight for tomorrow (Friday), but we cannot go if we are not through with the embassy, that’s why efforts are being made to ensure that it is taken care of,” Mayuku said.

“CAF has been informed and NFF has been alerted that we are making sure that the embassy clears us because we have met every requirement, they asked from us and we still don’t know why we aren’t getting clearance to travel.”

RELATED STORY: Chiefs’ CAF opponents request postponement

By Mthokozisi Dube

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