President Muhammadu Buhari has charged Nigeria's Super Eagles to work hard in Russia and win the FIFA World Cup for the country.
The President gave the charge at the Presidential Villa Abuja on Wednesday, when he hosted the country's men's football team ahead of their departure to Russia for the mundial.
He urged the players to play fair, demonstrate the gallant spirit of Nigeria and use their age advantage as the youngest team in the tournament, to excel in Russia.
Play fair and clean but demonstrate the gallant spirit which Nigerians are known for. You are the youngest team in the tournament which means you are likely the most inexperience team but it is also something that you can use to your advantage. You have the full support and the blessings of all Nigerians. We will look up to you as long as the tournament lasts, he said.
President Buhari reminded the eagles that nothing unties the country more than football therefore; they should not to toy with the emotions or feelings of Nigerians while in Russia, as he pledged full support for the team.
He said: You are going to represent us in Russia. You must bear in mind that you are not just going for a tournament; with each game you must remember that you are carrying the patience, emotions and feelings of over 180 million people. Nothing unites Nigerians more than football and nothing will gladden the hearts of the people of Nigeria than for you to acquit yourselves honourably by winning in Russia,this is our time and we look up to you to make us proud. All Nigerians join me in saying to you, BEST OF LUCK.
The President commended the Nigeria Football Federation NFF for drawing up the right programme that is helping to refine the team into the power horse it is meant to be.
Speaking earlier, Sports Minister, Solomen Dalung thanked President Buhari for his support to the team.
He said the super Eagles showed good signs right from the qualifiers for the world cup by qualifying for the tournament from a very tough group, with a match to go. He pledged that the team will do well in Russia.
These Super Eagles have already started on a very positive note by qualifying in style for Russia 2018. You will recall that when the team was drawn in the so-called group of death for the African qualifiers, not many gave them the chance of qualification from the group that had African football giants like Cameroon, Algeria and Zambia. However, the Super Eagles shocked all doubting Thomases by not only qualifying for 2018 but doing so remarkably with a match to spare.
All these were made possible because of your support and frequent intervention to ensure welfare of the team through the timely release of funds for the prosecution of the qualifiers. This did not come as a surprise because since 1985, the Nigerian Golden Eaglets won the FIFA World Cup under your administration and since then, your support for all the national team has not been in doubt, he said.
The Minister emphasized that the team will is well motivated and would excel at the Russia 2018 football fiesta.
It is against this background that I present the team for your fatherly Blessing. Once again Nigeria is drawn in a difficult group alongside our perennial opponents Argentina, Croatia and Island. It is difficult but by no means a mission impossible. The team and the technical crew are in high Spirits and are highly motivated to soar above their opponents at the World Cup, Dalung boasted.
On his part, President, Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick said President Buhari's support has been very influencial on the performance of the team.
He announced that the NFF is working hard on becoming self sustaining in the next few years.
I want to thank you for your massive support your have given to the NFF and for creating the enabling environment for the prosperity and stability we are enjoying in football today. Our dream is to create a culture of football sustainable development and that has been one of the plans in which we took when we came into existence.
In truth, you have done what no other President has done in the history of Nigeria. 32 years ago with your magic wand, Nigeria won the U17 World Cup. Our dream beyond enabling all these things is to create a self sustaining football federation and within the next two years I can assure you the NFF will be running on its own without any funds from government.
That has been the dream of the NFF. Today, football is being played in Maiduguri l, it was reported in BBC because of the Peace you have been able to achieve in that area. Our dream also is create a football federation that people will look at and say we are very proud to be Nigerians, Pinnick stated.
Coach of the team, Gernot Rohr simply said: Your Excellency, to come out of this difficult group with Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, is the first step but I think the players are able to do it.
Team captain, Mikel Obi thanked the President on behalf of the players, for meeting all their needs ahead of the tournament, as he pledged to bring back the trophy.
Your Excellency Sir, on behalf of the team, players, coaches, the staff, we will like to say a massive thank you for what you have been doing for Nigerian football. This is the first time we will be going to a tournament like this without any issues on money, bonuses or anything like that. I think everything is sorted now for us and all we have to do is to go out there as players and make this country proud. And with your support as the father and leader of this country, we will go out there, give our best and come back with the trophy, he said.
Source: Voice of Nigeria