Nigerians in South Africa get safety warning before AFCON semi

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Nigeria‘s authorities on Tuesday called for caution over what they described as “veiled threats” against their citizens living in South Africa before both countries meet in an Africa Cup of Nations semifinal — a football match that is renewing frictions.

Both countries already have endured a long-standing rivalry, more so because they have Africa’s biggest entertainment industries rather than the continent’s largest economies.

But now tensions are rising in the context of football as Nigeria and South Africa get ready to play in their semifinal match in the Ivory Coast on Wednesday.

The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa said in a statement that some South Africans were making “inflammatory online comments” that mostly “consist of veiled threats” against Nigerians.

The commission urged Nigerian citizens in South Africa to “be watchful of their utterances, be mindful of where they choose to watch the match … and refrain from engaging in loud, riotous or provocative celebrations should the Super Eagles win the match.”

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said the country “does not agree with the apprehension expressed” in the statement, adding: “The advisory is regrettable because it seems to create alarm and unnecessary tension between the citizens of South Africa and Nigerians living in or visiting South Africa.”

In 2019, xenophobic violence in South Africa left 12 people dead.

Wednesday’s game will be a repeat of a 2000 semifinal, which Nigeria won 2-0. Nigeria won the last of its three Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2013, while South Africa’s only win came in 1996.