By Lexi Elo
With the battle for spots at the football programme of the 11th All-Africa Games successfully concluded, NFF’s Deputy General Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme has tasked the U-23 National Team and the Senior Women National Team to focus on winning places at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The one-time Director of Sports in Cross River State, who led the delegation of the U-23 boys to their triumph in Zambia at the weekend, insists that players and Coaches of both teams should immediately put celebration on the shelf and think of the next big challenge.
“There is no doubt that you have done the country proud with this victory. You showed the excellent fighting spirit for which the average Nigerian is renown all over the world. However, I want you to see this as a wake-up call for bigger challenges. Now that you have been able to turn the table against Zambia at home to qualify for the All-Africa Games, Nigerians will expect you to be capable of turning the table against any other team at major championships,” Ikpeme said.
Nigeria failed to register either of the men and women teams at the 10th All-Africa Games in Maputo four years ago, and both also failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London.
“You have done what your predecessors could not do, but there is more for you to do. You have to now focus on the qualification series for the Olympics. I have also reached out to the Super Falcons to tell them exactly the same thing. Both teams started well, but it is not yet time for celebration. There are hurdles to climb to get to Rio de Janeiro.”
The Falcons are up against the same Malian side they humiliated to reach the All-Africa Games, when the race for the Olympics begins. Nigeria will host the first leg in Abuja on May 9, with the return leg in Bamako a week later.
For the Dream Team, they begin the race in July, against the winner of a preliminary round involving Ghana and Liberia, and will then play a final round before reaching the CAF U-23 Championship slated for Senegal in December, where Africa’s three flag-bearers in the Men’s Football Tournament of the 2016 Olympics will emerge.
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