- As Mark motivates players
- Team leaves for Curitiba
Promises of a bounty reward came from the highest office in Nigeria Friday, when President Goodluck Jonathan said he will shock the national team if they are able to make a major impact at the ongoing World Cup being hosted in the South American country of Brazil.
Speaking through Senate President David Mark, who led a powerful Federal government delegation to wish the Eagles well in the championship, Jonathan said it was time an African country wins the World Cup, adding that the African champions are motivated enough to do the magic.
“When we won the Olympics gold medal at Atlanta 96, we defeated countries like Argentina and Brazil, so I believe we can have a repeat performance at this year’s World Cup, with the talents available to us in this team,” he said.
The Federal Government delegation, which includes Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Muhammed, Youth, Bonny Haruna, Culture, Chief Edem Duke and host Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo, who also declared that he has absolute confidence in the abilities of the team to cause upsets in the championship that will remain indelible in soccer annals. Also in attendance were two state governors including that of Cross River, Senator Liyel Imoke, where the team played all its qualifiers for the World Cup, Chairman Senate Committee on Sports, Sen. Adamu Gumba and his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon Godfrey Gaya.
Senator Mark assured that the government was ready to do all it can within available resources to make the team comfortable in the championship, adding that he will personally remain to attend all the team’s games in the opening rounds of the championship. He praised the good conduct of the players so far and thanked the Mayor of Campinas, Mr Donas Donizete, who was also present for his support for the team.
Earlier, NFF President, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, who introduced the huge presence of dignitaries, said he was thrilled that such a delegation was in town to motivate the players and officials of the team.
The NFF also had in attendance Vice President, Chief Mike Okeke Umeh and Chairman of the Technical Sub-Committee, Chris Green.
Maigari assured that with the calibre of players paraded by the African champions, Nigerians and indeed Africans will not be wide of the mark if they start thinking of winning the World Cup.
Responding, Head Coach of the team, Stephen Keshi said he was happy to see top government functionaries visiting the team before they kick their first ball of the tournament as that has been a motivating factor for him in his playing days, which saw him captaining the squad for 14 years.
Team Skipper, Joseph Yobo, assured Nigerians once again that the team will not disappoint at the tournament, while calling for prayers and positive attitude from all and sundry.
After the speeches, Senator Mark presented Yobo, with the national flags, while Keshi also received a flag for the team, same as Team Administrator, Dayo Enebi Achor, that will be displayed on the team’s bus during each game they played.
All the 23 players also received the national flags from dignitaries present, with all of them assuring that they will not let the nation down. After the eventful occasion, the August visitors went into a private session with the players and coaches during which sundry issues concerning the team’s welfare were discussed.
Meanwhile, Friday’s open day at the national team’s basecamp in Capinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil turned out to be another exciting time for Brazilians soccer fans to show their love for the Super Eagles as they turned out in their thousands to cheer the team at their training ground in Estadio Brinco de Ouro da Princesa.
Open days are normally organized periodically for fans and the media to have an intimate experience with the team at their team base camp and what an experience it was for the fans of the Nigerians side, their players and officials. Apart from the thousands who were able to gain access into the arena, others lined out the route to the stadium as the team drove in from their Vitoria Hotel abode.
At a point, the situation almost degenerated as police battled to cage the fans who were by now running onto the pitch where players and the technical crew were doing their business to have a closer shave and look at the Super Eagles. No violence was however recorded during the over two hours that the team trained at the venue.
At the end of the session both the international press and their Nigerian counterparts that includes such heavyweights as Kunle Solaja, Mumini Alao, Akinloye Oyebanji, Paul Ogazie, Tony Ubani, Kunle Salami, Kayode Tijani and Christian Opara, also had their turns to interact with the players and officials and left with very positive positions.
The national team departed for Curitiba, Saturday morning at about 10:30am local time, which is about 2:30pm Nigerian time for Curitiba, the Brazilian city, where the team will play its opening game of the championship against Asian representatives, Iran, which is handled by former Manchester United and Bafana Bafana of South Africa coach, Carlos Quiroz.