President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode as a member of the Federal Government Delegation to the 2018 FIFA World Cup starting in Russia from June 14.
Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung who said this when he led a delegation from the International Paralympics Committee on a courtesy visit to Governor Ambode at Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja on Thursday, said the appointment was in recognition of the massive investment and commitment to sports development which the Governor had exhibited in the last three years.
While handing over the letter of appointment to the Governor, Dalung said Lagos had been home to sports, and that it was gratifying that Governor Ambode had repositioned sports as a catalyst for development and growth in the State.
“Your Excellency, I want to inform you that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has approved you as one of the members of the Federal Government Delegation that would be leading and representing him and other Nigerians in Russia at the World Cup.
“The President’s approval of you as a member of that delegation is borne out of the conviction that you have been one of the Governors that have invested heavily in sports and also supported Sports.
“Lagos is home to sports and so we are always here. We are always here because of the very friendly environment and a good relationship the Ministry enjoys with the Lagos State Government and the fraternity of the government and people of Lagos is one of the major reasons why we will often visit the Governor when the occasion demands,” Dalung said.
He said the high-powered delegation from the International Paralympics Committee led by Mr Sam Munkley was at Lagos House as part of the bid by Nigeria to host the International Paralympics Championship in Lagos come 2019, saying apart from conducting training for Nigerian Paralympics association and stakeholders, the delegation would also inspect the facilities to be used when the country gets the hosting right for the tournament.
Responding, Governor Ambode thanked President Buhari for appointing him into FG’s delegation to the World Cup, saying that with the morale and physical support for the Super Eagles, Nigerians would be made proud at the end of the day.
He specifically allayed fears in some quarters over the losing streak suffered by the team in some of the friendly matches played in preparation for the tournament, insisting that the succession of defeats to Atletico Madrid, England and Czech Republic were part of the strategy to understand the areas to concentrate on in having a well-rounded team.
“With our morale and physical support, Nigerians would be made proud and I am sure people should not bother about what they are seeing with the friendly matches; they are supposed to be friendlies and I am sure the team will put all their energy and make Nigeria proud,” Governor Ambode said.
He said sports, being the engine room for development, would continue to be accorded the pride of place, just as he reiterated commitment to support sports development and create enabling environment for sports to thrive in Lagos and by extension in Nigeria.
While describing the visit of the delegation as timely, the Governor pledged his personal commitment and support of the State Government to ensuring that Nigeria gets the hosting right for the International Paralympics Championship, and also invest more in sports.
“Lagos State is ready and committed to host the championship. We have done so much in the area of sports and also sports for people with disabilities and this is part of our overall vision to use sports to develop the city itself.
“There is so much construction going on and this is also part of that whole concept to create the enabling environment to allow people to move easily and also create platform for tourism and also to use sports as means of building that bonding that we really need,” the Governor said.
He said as part of the efforts to create enabling environment for the youth population in the State, the State Government was currently reconstructing the Onikan Stadium, while a groundbreaking of the Maracana Stadium in Ajegunle would be performed in few weeks.
Earlier, Munkley thanked Governor Ambode for the hospitality accorded his delegation, saying they had never received such from any country before now.
“We have worked closely with the Nigeria Paralympics Federation over the last days to host a very fruitful workshop and the input has been amazing. The talent that you have for power Paralympics here in Nigeria makes your people and the federation proud. Thank you for taking time to meet with us today; we look forward to doing more facility tour and working with you to host a power Paralympics competition here in Lagos State,” Munkley said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has dropped a point from its last month’s 47th position to 48 place in the world, and from sixth to seventh in the continent, in the latest FIFA rankings.
The statement on FIFA’s website on Thursday said the recent flurry of pre-FIFA World Cup friendlies left its mark on the latest rankings.
While the top three positions are unchanged as Germany, Brazil and Belguim sit respectively, Russia-bound duo of Poland and Uruguay have succeeded in making strides within the top 20.
Super Eagles World Cup Group D foes Argentina, Croatia and Iceland are on fifth, 20th and 22nd positions respectively.
In Africa, Tunisia moved seven places down from 14th in the previous rankings to 21 as the continent’s top ranked team.
Senegal follows in 27th place while DR Congo stayed on 38 with Russia-bound Morocco on 41st place and Egypt in 45th position.
Ghana, a non-participant at the World Cup moved three places to 47th and sixth in the region.
The next rankings will be released on July 19.