President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday in Abuja described football as one of the greatest sources of unity in the country as well as in many parts of the world.
‘‘Our hearts beat as one anytime our teams are playing a football match. 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’’.
Buhari spoke at a meeting with a delegation of FIFA led by its president Gianni Infantino and the president of Confederation of African Football (CAF) Patrice Motsepe, Buhari gets the FIFA flag from Infantino.
Receiving the FIFA delegation led by at State House, 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.
Buhari also declared his administration’s commitment to use football for the development of the girl-child, inspiring young people to have rewarding careers in the game.
On women’s football, the President 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.
President Buhari, therefore, urged the leadership of the world football governing body to consider Nigeria top on its plan 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, the Nigerian leader 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.
The Nigerian leader commended the enormous work done by the organisation in the development of football, using it as a tool for positive social change and to drive global unity.
He pledged support for the latest FIFA initiative, the FIFA Connect programme which aims to drive football development at the grassroots using technology, assuring football body’s top echelon of Nigeria’s active participation in the programme .