The story of how the Super Eagles snatched four precious points out of the claws of Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in their much –hyped 2018 World Cup double –header would never be complete without chapters for the motivational roles played by Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung and NFF President Amaju Pinnick and his Board and Management. Only a few words can be said here.
Sports Minister Dalung was an inspiring presence during the first match in Uyo, arriving in good time for the ceremonial match formalities also as representative of President Muhammadu Buhari. He personally told the players to go there and do a great battle as he shook their hands on the touchline.
It must also be recalled that Barrister Dalung led the Nigerian delegation to the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup race, which Nigeria won 2-1 away to Zambia in Ndola in October 2016, and was also at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo when the Eagles thrashed Algeria’s Fennecs 3-1 in November 2016.
In Yaounde, Barrister Dalung not only flew in on match day, he arrived with a number of key political personalities, including Chairman of the House of Reps Committee on Sports, Goni Bukar Lawan, his deputy, Barrister Anayo Nebe and Hon. Eta. They were joined by the Ambassador of Nigeria to Cameroon, His Excellency Lawal Gashagar.
Before meeting with the players at their Hilton Hhonors, Dalung told Coach Rohr: “I bring message from the President of the Federal Republic (His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari) that our team should go out there and fight to win, but compete fairly at all times.
“Their victory over Cameroon in the first match has done much for the spirit of unity and togetherness in our country. We want them to consolidate by winning today.” It was while this meeting was going on that the Cameroon’s Minister of Sports, Bidoung Mkpatt, also formally walked in and welcomed Barrister Dalung and his team to Cameroon.
In a short meting with the players in the team bus as they were set for the drive to the stadium, Barrister Dalung emphasized: “Mr. President said you must go in there and play your hearts out for victory, but be fairness at all times is key.”
At the end, Dalung told thenff.com: “This is the result of teamwork. The boys have done well for the image of our country and all they need is to win the next match against Zambia and they will be in Russia. The Ministry of Sports will continue to give NFF all the support.”
On their part, the NFF Executive Committee and Management led by Mr. Pinnick ensured adequate preparations for the team, as well as flawless transport and accommodation arrangements at both Uyo and Yaounde.
In Uyo, tight security meant the Ibom Meridien was a no-go area for louts and scouts and touts, and the environment conducive enough for full concentration on the task at hand. Pinnick and his lieutenants met with Governor Udom Emmanuel and members of his cabinet on a few occasions, while a stadium inspection team and advance party also did their work well before match day.
For the trip to Yaounde, a Bombadier CRJ 1000 Next Generation aircraft, belonging to ARIK Air, was chartered. Only 55 minutes to Yaounde from Uyo on Sunday morning and 80 minutes from Yaounde to Abuja in the early hours of Tuesday after the match – comfortable arrangements that made the players and officials happy.
Besides Pinnick, NFF vice presidents Seyi Akinwunmi and Shehu Dikko, Board members Chris Green, Sharif Inuwa, Mohammed Alkali, Chidi Okenwa and Aisha Falode were also on the trip, alongside some members of the NFF Management led by the Deputy General Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme.
In Yaounde, the NFF booked the team into the 5-Star Hilton Hhonors, the best hotel facility in the city.
Before the departure on Sunday, Uyo –based businessman and friend of Mr. Pinnick, Aka Udofia (chief executive of Desicorn) met with the players inside the aircraft, and made a pledge of $20,000 for every goal scored in Yaounde. NFF partners Aiteo Group, also promised the sum of N10 million for every goal.
So, it was a highly motivated Super Eagles that took to the turf of the old –style Stade Omnisports Ahmadou Ahidjo on Mondayevening, impressing with a new, compact style. In the end, it was the African champions who forced the visitors to a 1-1 draw.
NIGERIA: Ikechukwu Ezenwa, Abdullahi Shehu, William Ekong, Leon Balogun, Elderson Echiejile, Mikel Obi (Mikel Agu 63’), Wilfred Ndidi, Ogenyi Onazi (Oghenekaro Etebo 87’), Moses Simon, Odion Ighalo (Kelechi Iheanacho 79’), Victor Moses
CAMEROON: Fabrice Ondoa, Collins Fai, Yaya Banana, Adolphe Teikeu, Tchaha Leuko, Sebastien Siami, Anguissa Zambo, Benjamin Moukandjo (Christian Bassogog 60’), Fabrice Olinga, Jean Pierre Nsame (Vincent Aboubakar 60’), Arnaud Njoum