ABUJA, Nigeria — 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 soccer match that is renewing frictions.
Both countries already have endured a yearslong 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 soccer 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 (the Nigeria team’s nickname) win the (semifinal) 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.
The rivalry between the two countries was fueled on Sunday when South African sensation Tyla beat four other Nigerian nominees to win the Best African Music Performance Grammy with her song “Water.” Tyla’s win was a “big one for Africa,” Nigerian artist Davido and a nominee for the category tweeted while congratulating her.
Soccer and music enthusiasts from both countries see the next stage of the rivalry in Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.
Nigeria and South Africa are meeting in 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.
Mogomotsi Magome contributed to this report from in Johannesburg.