* Says won’t resign as Sports Minister
Tobi Soniyi in Auja
Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung has admitted that late release of funds to the nation’s Olympic team affected Nigeria’s performance at the just concluded 2016 Olympics Games in Rio, Brazil,
The minister also said that the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) had not informed him that it hired a new foreign coach for the Super Eagles even as he described as unfair the federation’s treatment of Dream Team’s coach, Samson Siasia.
Dalung has never hidden his preference for a local coach, but the NFF had recently announced a German coach, Gernot Rohr, to manage the Super Eagles.
Speaking with State House correspondents shortly after briefing President Muhammadu Buhari on Nigeria’s outing at the just concluded Rio2016, Dalung said he wished the new coach the best of luck even though NFF had not informed him of Rohr’s appointment.
He said he begged the president to host the Nigerian contingent to the Olympics Games in Rio, Brazil, despite winning only one bronze medal in football and coming 78th on the medals table.
The minister also rejected the claims that Siasia who handled the football team at the Olympics has resigned, saying the true situation was that his contract with the NFF had lapsed.
Dalung faulted the way the NFF treated Siasia when it withdrew his official car in Abuja while struggling to secure a medal for the country in Rio.
The minister insisted Siasia was still relevant to football development in Nigeria, advising that he (Siasia) could be re-engaged based on his track record and pedigree.
According to the sports minister, it would be sad to have someone like Siasia leave Nigeria to go and represent another country out of frustration, just like many athletes did at the Rio Olympics.
Dalung also exonerated the coach and his team over the $390, 000 donation they got from a Japanese surgeon.
The minister insisted that he was convinced after meeting the Japanese in Brazil that there were no strings like match-fixing attached to the donation,
He however attributed the abysmal outing of the Nigerian Olympic contingent to late release of funds and inability to develop home-grown talents, noting that many athletes in the continent that performed relatively better were home-grown.
Dalung also told reporters that there was need to go back to the drawing board by reviewing the basic architecture of sports in the country.
“We need to go back to grassroots and groom talents for future competitions,” he said.
Dalung also took on his critics, saying they were ignorant of facts.
“I am not the problem of Nigerian sports because abysmal performance predates my appointment, ” he charged.
Asked what he briefed the president concerning the just concluded Rio Olympics, he said: “It is normal if somebody sends you on an errand, when you accomplish that task you first and foremost brief that person before you go public to start talking to outsiders.
“So, all I did was to brief the president on our performance, the challenges we had, the progress we made because in 2016 Nigeria was celebrated.
“These two (Nigerian) athletes (Aruna Quadri and Ukogu) were recognised internationally in Rio; that happening to Nigeria is an achievement.
“And I also requested from him (President) the support for getting a date to organise a reception for our Dream Team VI that won the bronze medal for us.
“He ( Buhari) also appreciated our performance and thanked us for doing the country proud and keeping the flag flying. He challenged us to do more for the country to move forward in sports,” concludes Dalung.