President Muhammadu Buhari declared yesterday that his administration is committed to using football for the development of the girl-child and also inspire young people to have rewarding careers in the game.
Buhari spoke when he received FIFA delegation led by its president, Gianni Infantino, and the President of Confederation of African Football (CAF), Patrice Motsepe, at State House, Abuja. The President called on the top echelon of football’s world governing body to see Nigeria as one of its greatest assets when it comes to the development of football.
On women’s football, Buhari 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.
Buhari urged the leadership of FIFA to consider Nigeria for support and investment. The President also told the visiting FIFA president, who is in the country for the six-nation Aisha Buhari Invitational Football Tournament, that since 2017 his administration had adopted football as a national asset.
He explained 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, Buhari 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. Buhari pledged support for the latest FIFA initiative, the FIFA Connect programme, which aims to drive football development at the grassroots using technology, assuring of Nigeria’s active participation in the programme.
“Nigeria is one of the few nations of the world that has participated in all FIFA competitions, at all the different levels for both men and women. These have opened doors of opportunities for a lot of our young boys and girls, men and women to have rewarding careers in the game,’’ he said.