The Nigerian team has asked its government to provide security for midfielder Sani Kaita after his red card during a World Cup loss to Greece prompted more than 1,000 death threats.
Nigeria team spokesman Idah Peterside said Kaita has received the death threats via e-mail from Nigeria ever since he was sent off for kicking out at Greece’s Vassilis Torosidis in the 33rd minute of Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Bloemfontein.
“We just hope that the government will treat these threats as a serious matter,” Peterside told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Security has been increased around the Nigerian team’s base in Durban, but Peterside doesn’t believe the team is under any serious threat while in South Africa.
“We have enough security in South Africa and we are not worried about the player’s safety here,” he said.
Nigeria Sports Minister Ibrahim Bio is staying in the team’s hotel in South Africa and has been alerted to the threats, Peterside said.
“I’m confident that they are going to do something about it,” Peterside said. “The minister has told us that these things happen, that they are actions of some overzealous fans and we must not worry about it.”
South Africa police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said all teams at the World Cup were receiving adequate protection, and he hadn’t received any reports of threats against the Nigerian player.
Nigeria lost its first two matches at the World Cup and can only advance to the next stage if it beats South Korea convincingly and Argentina beats Greece in the last Group B matches. Both matches are Tuesday.
Peterside said the threats were a result of frustration by some fans in the soccer-mad West African nation.
Kaita, who belongs to Monaco but is on loan to Russian club Alania Vladikavkaz, could decide to go to Europe after the World Cup rather than return to Nigeria.
Nigeria lost 1-0 to Argentina in Rustenburg and was leading Greece 1-0 before Kaita was given a straight red card. The Greeks scored their first goals and rallied to capture their first win at a World Cup.
“A lot of people think we are already out of the World Cup, and they are just showing the frustration and pain of having so much hope in the Eagles,” Peterside said. “It’s just a country that’s passionate about football, and it’s showing in the reactions. But we are not taking these threats lightly at all.”
Peterside, a former Nigeria goalkeeper, said he wasn’t sure what protection could be offered to Kaita after the World Cup, but was confident the Nigerian government would handle it adequately. He said the threats hadn’t disrupted the players.
Kaita, “has apologized to his teammates, and they all have forgiven him,” Peterside said. “We are in good spirits ahead of the South Korea game.”
In the most prominent case of an international player being targeted after a World Cup, Colombia defender Andres Escobar was shot and killed in his home country days after his own-goal helped the United States defeat the Colombians 2-1 in 1994.
In a recent case of players being involved in violence in Africa, the Togo national team withdrew from the 2010 African Cup of Nations at Angola in January following an attack by gunmen on its team bus in which two officials died.
Is this what it has gotten to?