Wed, 06 Jul 2022

YAOUNDE - Nigerian football fans are cheering their team, the Super Eagles, at home and in Cameroon, which is hosting the Africa Football Cup of Nations tournament. That includes hundreds of Nigerian refugees and people displaced by Boko Haram terrorism along the border with Cameroon.

Cameroon's state CRTV shows Nigerian football fans singing the Nigerian national anthem and cheering for its national football team, the Super Eagles, in northern Garoua city.

Garoua is hosting the Africa Football Cup of Nations, or the AFCON, group matches for teams from Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Nigeria's forward Samuel Chukwueze (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Nigeria and Sudan at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua, Jan. 15, 2022. Nigeria's forward Samuel Chukwueze (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal during the Group D Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Nigeria and Sudan at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua, Jan. 15, 2022.

The Confederation of African Football says thousands of Nigerian supporters have come to Garoua, but hundreds of them didn't have to travel far.

Nigerian Mohamed Tchiroma Fayiza, 19, has lived in Cameroon's Minawao refugee camp, on the border with Nigeria, for six years. She fled her village in Nigeria's northeast Borno state after Boko Haram militants attacked their school.

Speaking on CRTV, she says authorities helped her and more than 20 other female team Nigeria supporters to watch the AFCON matches in Garoua.

"I have come to support Nigeria because it [Nigeria] is my country,' she said. 'Anyway, I go, I can never forget my country. I can never forget Nigeria. I want Nigeria people{players} to play very well and win this match [tournament.]."

The U.N.'s refugee agency (UNHCR) says there are 68,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon's Minawao camp.

They elected Isaac Luka, who has lived in the camp since 2014, as their leader.

Luka also fled Borno state in June 2014 after Boko Haram terrorists killed more than 20 people in his village, including his family.

Speaking from Garoua, he says cheering on Nigeria's football team shows how much the refugees love their country and hope for peace so they can one day return home.

"I take [consider] football as a way [means] of resolving problems,' he said. 'If you look at the match [between] Sudan and Nigeria, you know Nigeria is facing security challenges. Sudan is facing security challenges. If the two [Sudan and Nigerian] refugees can come together and watch their players on the field, it is something that can bring unity among the refugees."

Nigeria supporters cheer before the Group D Africa Cup of Nations 2021 football match between Nigeria and Egypt at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 11, 2022. Nigeria supporters cheer before the Group D Africa Cup of Nations 2021 football match between Nigeria and Egypt at Stade Roumde Adjia in Garoua on January 11, 2022.

Luka says the refugees cheered the Nigerian team to a 1-0 victory over Egypt last week and a 3-1 victory over Sudan on Saturday.

Nigeria plays their third group match against Guinea-Bissau Wednesday.

The UNHCR says they helped at least a hundred Nigerian refugees in Cameroon get to stadiums to watch AFCON matches.

UNHCR in Cameroon spokesman Xavier Bourgois says they believe strongly in the power of sports.

"People [refugees] and especially young people [refugees] also have the right to enjoy like everybody else and so when we have these kinds of opportunities to bring the refugees into the stadium, of course we do it with a lot of pleasure. Most of the refugees come from very difficult places, they suffered a lot. They have a difficult history and so that was an opportunity for us to tell them to rebuild themselves," he said.

Cameroonian authorities say besides the refugees, several hundred Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram terrorists are also in Garoua to support the Nigerian football team.

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