President Muhammadu Buhari has described football as a great tool for national unity in the country, restating his government’s resolve to develop the game.
He made the comment when he received a FIFA delegation led by its President, Gianni Infantino, and the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF), Patrice Motsepe, at the State House in Abuja on Thursday.
“Our hearts beat as one anytime our teams are playing a football match,” presidential aide, Femi Adesina, quoted his principal as saying.
“Our youth are always positively engaged when our national football teams are on assignment. Without any doubts here, football is a major tool of national unity”.
President Buhari explained that the country was giving adequate attention to sports and has set up a committee to draw a 10-year plan for football.
“I expect that the recommendations of this committee will accelerate the development of football,” he told the delegation. “It is my hope that it will further improve the fortunes of the game internationally.”
According to the President, his administration has adopted football as a national asset and is delighted that Nigeria has produced excellent female players who are a force to be reckoned with globally.
“Our National women’s football team, the Super Falcons are a force to reckon with both on the continent and internationally,” he added.
‘‘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 Perpetua Nkwocha, Mercy Akide-Udoh, Nkiru Okosieme, and Ann Chiejiene are globally recognised stars.”
The Aisha Buhari Cup (ABC), he said, is a confirmation of the government’s dedication to women’s football.
‘‘This women’s football competition is a novel idea here and I am sure it will be exciting in its execution for our womenfolk and lovers of football,” he added. ‘‘It is also a confirmation of what we already know about our women.”
In his remark, the FIFA chief who is in the country for the six-nation Aisha Buhari Invitational Football Tournament, restated the global body’s commitment to the development of football in the country.
He also appealed to President Buhari to help in amplifying football’s unifying message.
“Nigeria is a big football-playing country. We need Nigeria to lead the football movement in the world, together with Africa as a continent,” said Infantino.
“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.”