Minister for Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, created panic among football buffs in Nigeria when the Rio Olympic-bound U-23 soccer team on a training tour in Atlanta, USA, could not be airlifted to Rio until a few hours to its opening game against Japan. Team handler, Coach Samson Siasia, drew the Minister’s ire when he cried out over the cash-strapped team’s ordeal in camp.
For reasons best known to him, Dalung denied knowledge of Dream Team’s preparatory trip to the United States. This was in spite of Siasia’s communication with him. The minister failed to visit or send help to the team when the media were awash with reports that they were stranded in Atlanta.
The flight arrangement made for the team was bungled. Nigeria was on the verge of missing the opening match against Japan before a bailout came from Delta Airlines, which airlifted them to Brazil on credit. The team braved the odds and went ahead to defeat their opponents. They fought and qualified for the semi-final, raising the hopes for another Olympic medal.
We salute the U-23’s sense of patriotism and abiding resilience that saw them subdue their opponents against widespread expectations. We commend the team for rekindling the never-say-die spirit our football teams are known for. These feats were demonstrated in the Saudi ’89 championship when the Flying Eagles were four goals down and came back to win the match. The 1996 Atlanta Olympic Dream team repeated the performance against Brazil, by coming back from two goals down and won the semi final game 4:3. The dream team then proceeded to beat Argentina 3:2 in the final from one goal down.
What an irony that the Minister this time rushed to congratulate the young men he had earlier left in the lurch! We are alarmed that Dalung could disown our national football team despite the shoddy preparations they were subjected to. He even attempted to create disharmony and indiscipline in the team when he instructed team Captain, John Mikel Obi, to take charge just because a frustrated Coach Siasia lamented their predicament on social media.All the sports associations have complained of the Sports Ministry’s incompetence under Dalung.
We join millions of disappointed Nigerians to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe Dalung for causing Nigeria serial international embarrassments and his crass incompetence.
His mismanagement of the Sports Ministry manifested in many forms. Nigerian athletes had to participate in the opening ceremonies wearing track suits rather than the special attires displaying our cultural elegance. The Captain, Mikel Obi, could not be part of the opening ceremony because of Nigeria’s shaddy arrangement.
Dalung had also created confusion in the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) by needlessly reawakening the rivalry between contenders for its leadership. He is a square peg in a round hole, and he should be removed from office now.
Delta Airlines deserves a pat on the back for its friendly intervention when we needed help most. We are grateful.