AHEAD OF RUSSIA 2018
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
Despite repeated calls for the cancellation of international friendly match between Super Eagles of Nigeria and DR Congo on May 28 in preparation for the 2018 World Cup, the federal government has insisted that the match would not be called off following the festering outbreak of Ebola virus in the country.
Making this declaration after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in the State House, the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung, said Nigeria would not be cowed by the outbreak of the deadly disease.
According to him, instead of cancelling the match, machinery would be put in place for a thorough screening of the players before their take-off in DR Congo and upon their arrival in Nigeria.
According to him, “the players will come to Nigeria in a chartered flight and nobody else will be allowed to arrive the country for the match through any other means except the chartered flight,” the minister affirmed.
Dalung, who said the Ministries of Sport and Health are collaborating effectively to ensure that thorough screening of the players and their allies is carried out before the kick-off of the match, added that it had been discovered that the disease is domiciled only in one place and has not spread to other parts of the country.
He also said ensuring that the match was allowed to take place had become compelling because its cancellation might be counter-productive for the country in future.
“Nigeria is going to play the friendly with DRC. I have discussed with the Federal Ministry of Health, with the World Health Organisation. We have reviewed the situation and received adequate information about it. So, we have agreed on major approaches. One, the DRC team is coming through a chartered flight and those coming for the match will be using that chartered flight and they would have been screened from the DRC and they will be screened here in Nigeria.
“There is going to be no any other person that is going to be admitted using any other means of transportation for the match. We also discovered that the Ebola outbreak is limited to a particular place and it has not escalated. So, we wouldn’t want to run the risk of setting a precedent which we will later be a victim of,” he said.
Dalung also said Nigeria was not going to Russia for the tournament as a spectator but as a contender with the determination to bring the cup to Nigeria in July adding that the promise made to the Eagles by the authorities that their earnings would be paid upfront would be kept.
“We are going to Russia as contestants and not as participants. As to what stage will Nigeria reach this time, we are not going there to end mid-way.
“We are going there for the cup and we will do everything possible within our best to make sure that we get to realise our ambitions. Very soon, I think after their match in Port Harcourt, we will hand over promises we made to them which is paying them all their allowances upfront before the move,” Dalung added.
The minister also said he was satisfied with the selection of the World Cup squad by the Super Eagles Technical Adviser, Genot Rohr, explaining that he had been given the free hand to make his own choices of the players without any interference.
“Yes, I am satisfied. This is because the grand rule I gave was that the National Technical Adviser should be given a free hand to determine the team at every stage – no interference. Nobody should even suggest anything to him. So, that is his judgement,” he explained.