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Buhari eventually fulfill 30 year old promise to China 85 eagles

Golden Eaglets

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, honoured the 1985 FIFA Under 17 male football champions, the Golden Eaglets, 30 years after the championship.

The Golden Eaglets, who won the maiden championship in 1985 in China prior to the military coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) that led to the ouster of the General Muhammadu Buhari-led military government, was unable to be hosted as planned.

President Buhari, while honouring the players and their coaches, yesterday, during a presidential reception for Nigerian athletes and officials who did the nation proud in 2015 held at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the “labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.”

The President, who gave each of the players (gold medalists) and their coaches N2 million and N1.5 million respectively, also announced a token of appreciation for the sportsmen and women who won laurels last year.

“I wish to remark that today’s event is very special to me because, Almighty Allah has, in His infinite mercies and love, kept me alive to this day and granted me the privilege of being able to fulfil my promise in 1985, to reward the winners of the maiden edition of the FIFA Under-17 World Championship.

“The reason for the 30 years delay is well known. It is, however, sad to note that a member of the 1985 Golden Eaglets is not here with us today. Please join me in observing a one-minute silence in honour of Kingsley Aikhionbare who died in London, in 1996.

“It is a well known fact that so much water has passed under the bridge between 1985 and now. The state governments that were to implement most of the pledges to the players and officials have changed hands so many times under different dispensations and political parties.

“In line with our belief that the ‘labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain,’ we will be saying thank you to our 1985 Golden Eaglets’ players and officials by using the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports template for rewarding outstanding athletes,” he said.

Buhari, who also expressed his gladness while playing host to the athletes and officials, said despite prevailing challenges, they have always proven to the rest of the world that the Nigerian spirit is indomitable.

“On behalf of all Nigerians, I wish to specially express my appreciation and, indeed, that of the nation to our athletes and officials for the consistency, determination, willpower and penchant for success being witnessed in the sports sector in recent times. I urge the managers of this sector to keep up the momentum,” he said.

Buhari assured that the Federal Government would not relent in its efforts to ensure that sportsmen and women continue to excel in international competitions.

“I am particularly concerned about our participation at the forthcoming Rio 2016 Olympic Games. We must not allow a repetition of the unsavoury experience at the London 2012 Olympics where Nigerian athletes failed to make it to the podium,” he urged.

The President, who charged them to always strive to be prudent in the way they manage time, financial and material resources to ensure victory at the next Olympics, said the present “administration’s policy of change must reflect in the way we do things either as individuals or institutions.”

“We must aim for optimal performance at all international competitions,” he urged.

The President said with the financial resources of the nation dwindling since last year, what the Federal Government is offering to the sportsmen and women is not payment or compensation for winning laurels for your country. Rather, it is a token of appreciation for your efforts and patriotism while competing for your fatherland,” he said.