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We’ll return Nigerian league to its glorious past ― Dare

The Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, has said plans are on to return Nigerian football to its glorious past through a viable and virile domestic league that will produce players which will form the nucleus of the senior national football team, the Super Eagles.

The minister stated this at the PMB Scorecard, a platform organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture for ministers to give an account of President Muhammadu Buhari’s achievements in different sectors from 2015-2023 to Nigerians which was held at the National Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja on Tuesday.

According to Dare, the Interim Management Committee (IMC), headed by Honourable Gbenga Elegbeleye and set up by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), is working on the modalities to re-engineer and rebuild the domestic league, the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) to regain its lost glory and be at par with global standard. He said it is time to return to the era when domestic players like Segun Odegbami from IICC Shooting stars of Ibadan and Christian Chukwu of Rangers International of Enugu formed the nucleus of the then national team, the Green Eagles.

“We must return to the DNA of our football, the domestic league. The process is ongoing through the NFF and the IMC. The process may be slow but surely it will work out. IMC is working to reengineer and rebuild the domestic league. The Super Eagles must return to the glorious days when it was dominated by local league players like Segun Odegbami from IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan and Christian Chukwu from Rangers International of Enugu. The Super Eagles will be rebuilt with players with young legs and youthful minds with the commitment to serve.”

Dare also listed the achievements of his ministry in the areas of ‘Adopt-an-Athlete, Adopt-a-Pitch, Adopt-a-Sport, Talent Hunt Program, Welfare Funds and the Covid-19 Relief Funds’ which he said have changed the face of sports in Nigeria.

He said 45 foreign and home-based athletes have benefited from the ‘Adopt-an-Athlete’ initiative where their welfare was properly taken care of with a 300 per cent increase in bonuses for the athletes with gold medalists collecting as much as $15,000, silver medalists $10,000 and $5,000 for bronze medalists.

He added that the ‘Adopt-a-Pitch-Initiative’ has seen to the revival and refurbishment of the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja bankrolled by business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna on the bill of Kaduna State Government, National Stadium Surulere, Lagos financed by Sir Kessington Adebutu, Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan financed to the tune of N150 million by the Federal Government and others like the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu and the Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi.

The minister stated that 16 Nigerian athletes including Tobi Amusan and Ese Brume have benefited from the NOC/IOC Athletes Scholarship while adding that 220 athletes also benefitted from the N11 million relief fund during the COVID-19 lockdown.

He said the families of deceased sports icons like Rashidi Yekini, Samuel Okwaraji, Ali Jeje and Sunday Bada are being paid monthly stipends under the Athlete Welfare Scheme while hospital bills of some active and retired athletes like Kadiri Ikhana (back surgery), Sunday Eboigbe (medical support), Jerry Okorodudu (infection), Nkem Akaranye (knee surgery) and Funke Oshonaike (dental surgery) were settled.

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