The Nigeria Amputee football team, Special Eagles, currently in Angola for the Africa Amputee Football Cup of Nations, have called for the urgent intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari towards alleviating their poor condition into the tournament.
The Special Eagles landed, Benguela, venue of the competition, on Wednesday night to return to the competition after nine years of absence due to lack of funds.
With only solidarity support from the Nigeria Football Federation which was not sufficient to foot their bill, the 15-man team of 10 players, 2 coaches, one back room staff and two officials travelled on the strength of flight tickets provided on credit by their travel agent.
Speaking on arrival in Angola, President of the federation, Alhaji Suleiman Isah, said while they are still expecting the ministry of sports to approve some support for them even while grappling with contending demands from other sports, it has become necessary to appeal for the intervention of the President of the country on the plight of the national amputee football team.
“It is tough for us but we needed to make this trip to keep hope alive for the amputees who have decided to counter their physical disability by engaging respectably in sports. They have been absent from the Africa Nations Cup for nine years because there was no funding support. It will devastate the boys badly if they missed this edition again.
“Unfortunately, the only support we got was from the NFF and it is not enough to cover the cost of flight tickets even as we dropped some players. We got tickets on credit just as we also procured jerseys, tracksuits, boots and other equipments on credit. Worse is that we don’t even have a dime to give to the players as allowances both at the competition and on return.
“We are hoping that the sports ministry will approve some aid for us but we are not certain. Under the circumstance, we wish to respectfully appeal to our deer President to intervene to bail us out even if only to provide for the flight ticket.
“His fatherly gesture will be a big boost for amputee sports and will also give hope and sense of belonging to our physically challenged persons who are seeking social inclusion through sports, instead of constituting burden to their families or nuisance to the public by begging. It is especially so as amputee football has developed into a professional sports with a number of Nigerians engaged in professional clubs overseas.
“We need to support the development of this platform in Nigeria to provide opportunities to more amputees. To deny them on this would mean neglect and rejection of this category of our fellow citizens.”
The Nigeria amputee football team will open their Nations Cup campaign against Liberia tommorrow, Friday.
Their subsequent fixtures are against Cameroon, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and host Angola on October 8.
With experience from the Mexico 2018 World Cup, the Special Eagles are rated as the strongest team in Africa to challenge for the trophy against Angola who are current world champions.