The pending CAF Confederation Cup return leg between Bloemfontein Celtic and Rivers United of Nigeria is set to be played in Benin later this month.
This is according to correspondence, which City Press has seen, from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) addressed to CAF, confirming that Nigeria’s neighbour Benin has agreed to host the second preliminary fixture that was initially due to be played on January 6 in Port Harcourt.
Celtic could not travel to Nigeria due to the strict Covid-19 regulations set by the Nigerian government, which declined a request for a quarantine waiver for the Celtic contingent. CAF then acceded to the request by NFF, on behalf of Rivers, to have the game rescheduled and staged in a neighbouring country to Nigeria “with more lenient Covid-19 protocols”.
The CAF interclub competition organising committee had given Rivers until Tuesday to confirm new details.“... we are writing to inform you that we have written to Benin Republic Football Federation requesting approval to play the match in their country; they have consented,” read part of the letter from the office of the general secretary of the NFF to CAF on Tuesday.
“We are, however, waiting for an official letter from them to forward to CAF. This will be by tomorrow [Wednesday] or the next day.” CAF has told Rivers “to take charge of all organisational expenses as the host club, and to ensure that the visiting team [Celtic] has the [necessary] approvals for entry into the neutral country”.
Celtic have accepted the new arrangement, with the club’s chief executive officer Khumbulani Konco telling City Press via text message: “It’s a fixture that can be played anywhere, anytime.”
CAF wants the game to be played over the weekend of January 22 to 24. Celtic trail Rivers 2-0 from the first leg that was played at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein last month.
The winner of this fixture will face another Nigerian side, Enyimba, in the additional preliminary round, according to the draw conducted by CAF on Friday.