You’ve probably heard of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, but do you know the story behind it? This massive multi-purpose stadium located in the heart of Abuja has been an iconic landmark for decades. At 60,491 seats, it’s one of the largest stadiums in West Africa. Though now officially renamed, most Nigerians still fondly call it the Abuja Stadium.
Since it opened, the stadium has hosted major events like the All Africa Games, Big Brother Nigeria, and international football matches. But beyond the big events, the stadium represents Nigeria’s spirit, culture, and passion for the sport. Today, it stands as an important national monument and a source of pride for all Nigerians. The story of how this stadium came to life is truly inspiring.
The History of Moshood Abiola National Stadium (National Stadium Abuja)
The Moshood Abiola National Stadium, formerly known as the National Stadium Abuja, has a rich history.
Nigeria had a number of stadiums located all around the country, but not many of them reached international standards. Despite lacking the necessary infrastructure, the capital of Nigeria, Abuja, was chosen to host the 8th All Africa Games in 2000 (a regional multi-sport event held every four years and put on by the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa). In order to have a cutting-edge stadium and games village ready in time to host the All Africa Games, the Federal Government of Nigeria started a multimillion-dollar project. On July 18, 2000, the contract was awarded. The egg-shaped stadium was designed by Schlaich Bergermann and Partners and was constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria.
The complex was officially commissioned on April 8, 2003. Following its commissioning, the final round of game preparations began. The game that year was the biggest in the history of the All Africa games, with 6,000 competitors from 53 countries competing in 22 sports under the supervision of 1,200 officials. Over 1,500 journalists from around the world contributed to the global media. The games were held from October 4th to October 18th, 2003, and were mostly regarded as a success. Nigeria, the host country, won 226 medals and finished first in the games that year. Aside from the All-African Games, the stadium has hosted several football matches and events.
The facility has boosted the country’s confidence in bidding for international events. Because of the stadium’s amenities, the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB) granted the Nigeria Volleyball Federation (NVBF) the provisional hosting rights for the 2007 World Youth Championship.
The Importance of the Stadium to the City of Abuja
The Moshood Abiola National Stadium is the centerpiece of sports in Abuja.
Commissioned on the 8th of April, 2003, this 60,491-seat stadium hosts football matches, athletic competitions, and major concerts. For Abuja residents, it’s a source of pride and community.
On game days, the stadium comes alive. Vendors hawk team jerseys and snacks while fans stream through the gates, chatting and laughing. The crackle of energy is palpable. When the players emerge from the tunnel, a roar swells from the crowd that can be heard across the city. For 90 minutes, differences are forgotten as everyone comes together to cheer on the team. Win or lose, people leave smiling, linked by the shared experience of the match.
More than just an arena, the Moshood Abiola National Stadium binds Abuja residents through the universal languages of sport and music. It’s a place where memories are made, and a city finds its voice. For that, it will always remain at the heart of Abuja.
The Stadium’s Architectural Features and Design
The Moshood Abiola National Stadium, formerly known as the National Stadium, Abuja, is an architectural and engineering marvel.
The main bowl of Moshood Abiola National Stadium is designed to hold 60,491 spectator seats covered by a lightweight roof structure. The principal features are the two overlapping spectator tiers, with the bottom tier accommodating 32,000 seats and the upper tier accommodating 28,000 seats. The bottom floor also has 56 corporate suites with viewing terraces and one presidential lounge with seating for 50 people. The entry building houses all functional and secondary rooms and has a gross floor space of approximately 25,000 m2. This structure is located beneath the concourse level, which serves as the distribution level for spectators and has various kiosks, banks, first aid facilities, and restroom structures.
The stadium’s structure is made up of in situ and precast concrete elements. The upper tier and roof structure are supported by 36 towers. These towers are supported by 140 drilled piles with diameters of 1.30 m and 1.50 m at depths ranging from 8.00 m to 30.00 m. Precast concrete elements ranging in length from 13 to 15 meters are inserted between the towers to build the spectator stands. In the company’s production yard 15 kilometers distant, 6,300 precast pieces were manufactured. A 2.50 m high and 2.00 m wide hollow concrete ring beam with a 0.35 m wall thickness connects the towers at the top. The roof structure is held together by 36 enormous concrete points to the ring beam. The ring beam for this type of roof structure was manufactured of concrete for the first time in the world. The roof structure is a cable construction weighing 800 tons and bearing a 28.000 m2 membrane.
The stadium was designed by renowned architects Schlaich Bergermann and Partners (Germany) and constructed by Julius Berger Nigeria. The National Stadium remains an architectural wonder and source of pride. Its world-class facilities continue to host major national and international events. Whether for sports, entertainment, or culture, this stadium delivers an unparalleled experience for all.
Facilities in Moshood Abiola National Stadium
The Moshood Abiola National Stadium, formerly known as the National Stadium, Abuja, has some impressive facilities that provide amenities for various sporting activities.
The main stadium has a capacity of 60,491 spectators. It hosts football matches and athletics competitions like track and field events.
3000 Capacity Indoor Sports Hall
For indoor sports, the stadium has a multipurpose sports hall that can be used for basketball, volleyball, handball, gymnastics, and table tennis.
2000 Capacity Swimming Pool
There are two Olympic-sized swimming pools, one for competition and one for warm-up. These are used for swimming competitions and training.
The stadium complex has several tennis courts that host tennis matches and training.
There is a tartan track for athletics like sprints, long-distance running, hurdles, etc.
In addition to the main stadium pitch, there are several outdoor football pitches for training and smaller matches.
2000 Capacity Gymnasium and Fitness Center
The stadium has a 2000-capacity gym and fitness center with various equipment for exercise, workout sessions, and weight training.
The stadium has a sports medicine and physiotherapy department to provide medical assistance to athletes and players.
There is a media center for press conferences and media coverage of events at the stadium.
Ample parking space is available at the stadium for spectators and athletes.
Other facilities in the complex include:
- A Velodrome
- Presidential suite and viewing area
- 56 corporate suites
- Post offices
- Two scoreboards and floodlights
- Shops and kiosks for snacks
- 3000-capacity hockey stadium
- Baseball and softball complex
All stadium facilities are constructed and engineered in accordance with the regulations of international sports organizations, specifically the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Moshood Abiola National Stadium meets international safety standards and is outfitted with emergency response units, closed-circuit security cameras, and crowd control steel barriers. There is also backup fire fighting equipment and metal detectors in place to prevent any mishaps.
Several difficulties have arisen over the upkeep of the sports complex. Nigerian sports executive Amos Adamu encouraged the government to privatize the Abuja stadium soon following the 2003 All-Africa Games to avoid the vandalism that plagues publicly owned buildings.
Since its inception, the average annual maintenance estimate has been around $7 million, which is considered excessive by many standards. Because of the high expense of maintenance, the federal government has been looking into privatization options for the facility.
The Federal Government of Nigeria intends to grant a concession to a single concessionaire who will enter into an investment commitment and essentially operate the stadium with the primary goal of generating revenue from the proceeds of sporting events, concerts, religious activities, corporate sponsorship, corporate advertising, and other promotional activities through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
Change of Name
The name change of the National Stadium Abuja to Moshood Abiola National Stadium came as a surprise to many. In June 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari renamed the stadium after the late businessman and politician Moshood Abiola, who was believed to have won the annulled 1993 presidential election.
The president said he renamed the stadium after Abiola to honor his memory and acknowledge his contributions to Nigeria’s democracy. Abiola was a prominent businessman from Ogun State. He contested and was believed to have won the 1993 presidential election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party. However, the election was annulled by former military president Ibrahim Babangida.
Abiola’s victory in the election and the subsequent annulment of the results by Babangida led to a crisis that ended with General Sani Abacha seizing power. Abiola was later detained by Abacha after he declared himself president. He died in detention in 1998.
The renaming of the Abuja National Stadium after Abiola was seen by many as a step towards acknowledging his role and sacrifice in the struggle for democracy in Nigeria.
Notable Football Matches Held at Abuja Stadium
The Abuja National Stadium has hosted many notable football matches since its opening in 2003. Here are some of the most memorable:
The All-Africa Games
The 2003 All-Africa Games football competition was held in Abuja, Nigeria, from the 4th to the 18th of October 2003; it featured both a men’s and women’s Africa Games football tournament.
The Caf Champions League final
The 2004 CAF Champions League Final was also held in National Stadium Abuja, stadium.
The 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup
This was the thirteenth tournament of the Fifa Under 17 World Cup held in Nigeria from the 24th of October to the 15th of November 2009.
The Abuja National Stadium has been central to athletics, sports, and entertainment in Nigeria. The stadium has brought people together and created cherished memories that have shaped the nation.
Interesting Facts About Abuja National Stadium
The Abuja National Stadium has an interesting backstory. Here are 6 facts you may not know:
- It was built in 2003 for the All-Africa Games. Nigeria hosted the 8th All-African Games and needed a world-class stadium. The 60,491-capacity stadium was constructed in just 18 months!
- It cost $360 million to build. The stadium was quite an investment and seen as a source of pride for the capital city.
- It’s nicknamed the ‘Pride of Abuja.’ Locals take pride in the stadium as an icon of the city.
- It has hosted major events. Everything from football matches to religious gatherings to music concerts has been held there.
- It fell into disrepair but is being renovated. After years of limited maintenance, a major renovation project aims to restore it to its former glory.
- There are plans to privatize it. The government is looking to privatize the stadium to attract more events and generate revenue.
You’ve now learned the fascinating history behind this iconic sports stadium in the heart of Nigeria’s capital city. What was once simply known as the National Stadium Abuja or Abuja Stadium has been renamed to honor Moshood Abiola, the man who fought for democracy in Nigeria. Though he tragically passed before witnessing the transition to civilian rule, his legacy lives on in the massive multipurpose stadium bearing his name.
The next time you find yourself in Abuja, make sure to take a tour of Moshood Abiola National Stadium. Walk the grounds where world-class athletes once competed, and musical legends graced the stage. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the integral role this stadium has played in Nigeria’s culture, politics, and history. An enduring symbol of democracy and hope, it stands as a monument to the progress that’s been made and the potential of what’s still to come.