President Muhammadu Buhari has sought for the full support of the world football ruling body, FIFA, to further develop football game for the betterment of the country.
The President, who played host to the FIFA delegation, led by its President, Gianni Infantino and the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF), Patrice Motsepe, at the Presidential villa, Abuja today, September 16, stressed the need for FIFA “to consider Nigeria top on its plan for support and investment.”
He said that there are good reasons why FIFA should see Nigeria as one of its greatest assets when it comes to the development of football.
Speaking specifically on the six-nation
Aisha Buhari Invitational Football Tournament for which the FIFA team are in the country, Buhari pledged his administration’s commitment to use football for the development of the girl-child, inspiring young people to have rewarding careers in the game.
The President expressed delight that Nigeria has produced excellent role models to inspire the next generation of stars to take up the sport.
‘‘Our National women’s football team, the Super Falcons are a force to reckon with both on the continent and internationally.
‘‘Some of our women footballers such as Asisat Oshoala, who only recently became the first African to win the women’s European Champions League with her club Barcelona.
‘‘Rasheedat Ajibade, Rita Chikwelu, Onome Ebi, who is the only African to have played in five FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals, Desire Oparanozie and before them Perpetual Nkwocha, Mercy Akide-Udoh, Nkiru Okosieme and Ann Chiejiene are globally recognized stars.”
He said that the sport is being accorded the highest level of attention possible by the government to enable rapid development of abundant talents in the country.
‘‘I have also approved the unveiling of a committee to draw up a 10 year football development master plan for the country.
‘‘I expect that the recommendations of this committee will accelerate the development of football. It is my hope that it will further improve the fortunes of the game internationally.
On the Aisha Buhari Cup (ABC), with the theme: “Playing for Good”, which is on-going in Lagos, the Nigerian leader said the tournament could not have come at a better time.
‘‘This Women’s football competition is a novel idea here and I am sure it will be exciting in its execution for our women folk and lovers of football.
‘‘It is also a confirmation of what we already know about our women,’’ he said.
The President thanked FIFA for making ABC, a ranking tournament, adding that he looks forward to more countries joining to participate in the future.
President Buhari pledged support for the latest FIFA initiative, the FIFA Connect programme which aims to drive football development at the grassroots using technology, assuring football body’s top echelon of Nigeria’s active participation in the programme .
This was even as the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare said Nigeria, as the leading black nation in the world, is central to all that FIFA is seeking to achieve in its football development plan.
‘‘We love football and we follow the game passionately.”
Responding, Infantino renewed FIFA’s commitment to support the development of football in Nigeria, pledging to strengthen its partnership with the Nigeria Football Federation.
‘‘Nigeria is a big football playing country. We need Nigeria to lead the football movement in the world, together with Africa as a continent.”
The FIFA President thanked President Buhari for supporting the development of the game, appealing to him to help FIFA amplify the message of football as a uniting force.
‘‘When football is played there are no divisions in a nation or continent. Football brings people together and to do that we need important countries like Nigeria.”