Youth and Sports Development Minister Sunday Dare is hopeful the Super Eagles can do well in Cameroon and possibly win their fourth (4th) Africa Cup of Nations title next year.
Nigeria finished in third (3rd) place at the last edition of the tournament in Egypt two years ago and the Minister believes they can go two notches higher when next year’s event gets underway in January 2022.
“I have created the mental picture of this golden(AFCON) trophy in my head and I will use it as a prayer point every morning,” Dare told journalists and officials of TotalEnergies, AFCON sponsors, at the press conference to herald the three day trophy tour of Lagos, Nigeria on Monday.
The Minister said Nigeria is the country with the most podium finishes in the history of the competition, winning a medal fifteen(15) times out of eighteen(18) appearances.
The Super Eagles have won the tournament thrice, finished as runners up (silver medalists) four times and won bronze eight (8) times.
Dare also insisted that the local content of Nigerian football needs to improve if the country wants to compete favourably at the global stage.
His words: “We have to do more for the local ecosystem of our game. We have to be deliberate with talent discovery, nurturing of the talents discovered and managing them to get to the top of the ladder in their careers and stay there till they retire.
“We have countless examples of how we got this system working in the past. We must do it again. There must be consistent focus on the grassroots, school sports, provision of facilities, equipment and training gears. Competitions organized will also toughen and sharpen the talents.
“Look at Henry Nwosu, the sixteen year old school boy that made the Green Eagles squad to the 1980 AFCON.
“Look also at ‘chairman’ Christian Chukwu, Kadiri Ikhana who became accomplished coaches after their 1980 exploits.
“We can also speak about Stephen Keshi(of blessed memory) and what he achieved as a coach and a player, others like Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and Sunday Oliseh have all coached the Super Eagles and made their marks on the game.
“Clearly we have enough talents here, we just need to put in the hardwork to discover them.
“Let our former football stars and sports icons who have done Nigeria proud and who understand the DNA of Nigerian football be given the opportunity to help build a team. From the history of Nigeria’s performance at the AFCON, we have seen the impactful roles of indigenous handlers and former stars.”
The Sports Minister then commended the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for organizing a competition for schools sponsored by the foundation of the CAF president Dr Patrice Motsepe, while congratulating them for the successful organization of the just concluded CAF Champions League competition for women football clubs.