Nigerian authorities on Tuesday urged caution over what they called “veiled threats” against their nationals living in South Africa before the two countries meet in the semi-finals of the Cup of Nations – a football match that reignites friction.
The two countries have already endured a years-long rivalry, especially since they have Africa’s largest entertainment industries rather than the continent’s largest economies.
But today, tensions are increasing in the context of football, as Nigeria and South Africa prepare to play their semi-final in Ivory Coast on Wednesday.
The Nigerian High Commission in South Africa said in a statement that some South Africans were making “inflammatory comments online” which consisted mainly of “veiled threats” against Nigerians.
The commission urged Nigerian citizens in South Africa to “be careful what they say, be careful where they choose to watch the match…and refrain from engaging in loud, riotous or provocative celebrations if the Super Eagles (the nickname of the Nigerian team) win the (semi-final) match.
South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said the country “disagrees with the fears expressed” in the statement, adding: “The advice is regrettable as it appears to create alarm and unnecessary tension between citizens of South Africa and Nigerians living in or traveling to South Africa.”
In 2019, xenophobic violence left 12 dead in South Africa.
The rivalry between the two countries was fueled on Sunday when South African sensation Tyla beat four other Nigerian nominees to win the Grammy for Best African Musical Performance with his song “Water”. Tyla’s victory is “important for Africa”, tweeted Nigerian artist Davido, one of the nominees in this category, congratulating her.
Football and music fans from both countries will see the next stage of their rivalry in Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final.
Nigeria and South Africa face off in a repeat of the 2000 semi-final, which Nigeria won 2-0. Nigeria won the last of their three Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2013, while South Africa’s only victory came in 1996.