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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 18:35 GMT
Nigeria's venues criticised
Mercy Akide (left) in action for Nigeria
Nigeria have a strong women's football team

The Nigeria Football Association (NFA) has been criticised for naming Warri and Oghara as the venues for next month's African Women's Championship.

Lack of finance had raised doubts over the Nigeria's ability to host the tournament, scheduled for 7-21 December.

But the Delta state government, in charge of Warri and Oghara, offered to foot the bill and is determined Nigeria will retain the title for a third consecutive time, following wins in 1998 and 2000.

"Never in my imagination did I expect that Nigeria would take Africa's top women's football event to venues that are as good as hide-outs," soccer expert John Ozumba told BBC Sport Online.

Warri is overcrowded and has a poor transport infrastructure, while the city's new stadium has yet to be completed.

"The Warri stadium is about 70% completed, but what's on ground is a large pigsty," said local journalist Clement Obasele afterwards.

"Telephones are not available, poor seating on the terraces rendered spectators' view useless and general security was a wash-out."

There are also safety concerns, with a recent history of ethnic clashes and hostage taking in the area.

Oghara is a rustic and remote village set on the motorway and some distance from Warri.

Florence Omagbemi holding the African Women's Championship trophy
Nigeria won the 1998 and 2000 African Women's Championships
Some commentators have said the choice of Oghara is political point scoring by Delta state governor James Ibori, a native of the area.

But the NFA secretary-general Taiwo Ogunjobi has defended the decision to use both Warri and Oghara a the venues.

"We have used Warri stadium for an international match before and Oghara has a newly constructed township stadium, even though it's small," he said.

Teams from Cameroon, Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe will play in Oghara but will stay in nearby Sapele.

Ogunjobi said arrangements have been reached for a "high security network" to take charge of safety during the event, which will combat any threat of violence or theft.

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.


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