- Says: I am sure we all have learnt our lessons and will take the lessons to heart going forward
By Duro Ikhazuagbe
After almost making Nigeria’s Dream Team VI miss their first Group B game against Japan in the ongoing 2016 Olympic Games, Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, monday tendered unreserved apology to the team for the embarrassment they went through trying to get to Brazil from Atlanta, USA.
Coach Samson Siasia and his wards were stranded for three days in the American city after their pre-tournament training due to the inability of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports headed by Dalung, to remit money for the flight of the Dream Team VI to Manaus, venue of their group stage games.
The Nigerian Under-23 team eventually made it to the Brazilian city, barely five hours to the kick off time of their clash with Japan which they won 5-4.
But on Sunday night, Dalung, a conspicuous presence in the stands as the 1996 champions pipped Europe’s best team Sweden 1-0 to reach the tournament quarter-finals with a game to spare, tendered his apology in the dressing room after the game at the Arena Amazonia.
After hugging and exchanging pleasantries with players and officials, Dalung said: “I want to apologise for all the circumstances that led to your late arrival here. I apologise because I am the head and as such I must take responsibility for anything that happens under my watch.
“I’m happy you all have put the unfortunate incident behind you and have shown that you are true heroes by making the country proud with your qualification for the quarter finals. This qualification is unique as you guys are the first team to do so in the football event,” gushed Dalung as he savoured Nigeria’s qualification to the quarter finals.
Speaking further, the minister said: “I want to assure you that we appreciate your efforts, and I want to say that it’s when a man faces challenges that his true ability is tested. I am sure we all have learnt our lessons and will take the lessons to heart going forward.”
Dalung then assured the players and officials that all bonuses and allowances due to them will be paid, as he recalled that the team faced similar challenges on the way to winning the Africa Under-23 Cup of Nations in Senegal last year, which qualified Nigeria for the Olympics.
Responding, Team Captain, John Mikel Obi, assured Dalung that the team will not lose focus as their target is to win the gold medal for Nigeria.
The sports minister was in company with Nigeria’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Brazil, Adamu Emozozo and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youths and Sports, Mr. Chinyeaka Ohaa.