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AFCON Performance Was Built on Collective Efforts – Sports Minister

“Infrastructure and Facilities are Key Components for Our Athletes’ Success” - Sports Minister

The Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Owan Enoh, has attributed Nigeria’s commendable performance at the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), held in Côte d’Ivoire, to the collective efforts and determination of all stakeholders involved in Nigerian football. However, he emphasized that there is still significant work ahead for the Ministry and the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to elevate Nigerian football to its rightful place on the continent and globally.

Speaking during a media interview, Senator John Owan Enoh underscored the importance of developing local football, particularly focusing on enhancing the Nigerian league. He highlighted the need for increased funding as a crucial factor in the overall development of sports.

“The success we witnessed at the 2023 AFCON was a result of a combination of factors – first, the leadership of the country, Mr. President demonstrated commitment by approving a significant amount for the payment of outstanding he inherited to the members of the National Team ” stated Senator Enoh. “That gave me the first signal that all was going to be good at the AFCON. A lot of other factors from the Ministry’s operations, the NFF, and the support of Nigerians also played a role in our run at the AFCON”

He stated that the next steps for the nation will be to consolidate on the AFCON buzz and ensure qualification for both the 2025 AFCON and the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

“We have a challenge to qualify for the next AFCON and also the 2026 World Cup, but I think we also need to get back and sort out other issues. For example, we want to ensure we have our coaching area sorted out, and also get back to that point in the history of our sports and football, where foreign-based players compete for jerseys with the local based players. That means looking inwards at our local football to improve its competitiveness and technical levels, even in coaching.”

The Minister narrated that the last three AFCONs have been won by local coaches, just as the FIFA World Cup since inception has been won by countries who have local coaches. Hence, it strikes a pattern that means developing football inwardly matters.

Senator John Owan Enoh further called upon both corporate entities and individuals to invest more in Nigerian sports, emphasizing that such investments are vital for the sustained growth and success of the sport in the country.

“The unfortunate recent issue with the DTigers of Nigeria again exposes the underbelly that belies Nigerian sports” Senator Enoh stated. “Funding has remained a challenge over the years. Now we have the National Sports Industry Policy that is galvanizing us to think of sports as a business, and not leisure. We must find a way to attract the private sector and corporate organizations to be interested in sports. Thus, we must address the fundamentals of our sports, as well as the administration, because the Government cannot do it all alone.”

“We are looking at some partnerships and what other countries are doing. There is the popular example of the Sports Lottery Trust Fund in Great Britain, and other countries. We are looking at the lottery trust fund in Nigeria and how it works around the parameter of sports funding. The Ministry is coming up with funding models that will make our sports funding more sustainable.”

The Minister stated that the challenge of funding affects preparations, and performance, as in the case of DTigers, but the Ministry will work with sports federations to make this experience a thing of the past in the history of Nigerian sports.

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