Scoping the high security Super Eagles nest
Afcon 2013 will enter the knock out stages from the weekend with the remaining 8 countries hoping to be winners by end of Feb 10th. Any team that reaches the final they would have stayed almost a month here in South Africa. If the two weeks that the teams would have used during pre-tournament are added to the total then one is looking at six camping weeks by the eventual finalists.
These might seem like numbers to the ordinary individual but it is not as ordinary as it appears. These footballers and their technical crew would have had no direct access to their families, no physical contacts with their spouses and lovers for those days as movements outside of the camp is severely restricted.
I have been privileged to have been able to visit the two camps/hotels the Super Eagles have had since this tournament started. In Nelspruit they were based at the Igwenyama Resorts and Lodge out in the sticks where access to was only for those who have business there. On my first visit I was able to see the trio of Musa, Ogude and Ambrose and I remarked to them that it looks like they have been locked up for their safety. Remarkably, the three of them were quite cool with it and just smiled saying that they expected it and have come for business and not pleasure.
Igwenyama - as the locals know it - is a sprawling estate with enough space to have a 45000 seater stadium built there. The team trained there and had no business outside except on match days. Inside of course they had everything for them including pool tables for those who were that way inclined. The security was immense. Without an LOC accreditation badge or a resident in the Resort you will not get in. When members of the NFF wanted to visit they needed security clearance from the Super Eagles security officer to get through. Even the press conferences were held just outside the gates so that the media pack could be kept at bay.
For their matches in Rustenberg, the Super Eagles are now at the Hunters Rest and Conference centre. Another sprawling complex. Another camp in the outskirts of the city. Another very beautiful residence. Another residence tightly guarded. I was able to visit and take in the expensively furnished surroundings of the place. During the period I spent there, I saw a number of the players walking around the complex, the inevitable mobile phone seemingly attached to their ears - who can blame them as this is the only means they can connect with their families.