Former Sports minister Samaila Sambawa is excitedly looking forward to Saturday, when the Super Eagles of Nigeria will take on Croatia in their first match of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Sambawa was Sports minister when the Eagles failed to qualify for football biggest showpiece in 2006 and he remembers that moment, twelve years after, with a heavy heart.
“I came on a rescue mission then. The task given to me by president Olusegun Obasanjo was simple. Go and make sure Nigeria picks one of the tickets to the 2006 World Cup in Germany’.
“We had already played two games in the qualifiers and the results and performance, left much to be desired.”
“I knew the assignment was a difficult one but because am a man that is not scared of challenges, I was ready to face it head on.”
“I came in, had several meetings with the NFA as they were called then and we got cracking.”
“The approach changed and the excitement returned.”
“We were determined to pick the ticket but we never knew that the then NFA president, Ibrahim Galadima, had other plans off his sleeves.”
“He took our last and most important match of the qualifiers to his home state (Kano State) and his selfishness cost us the ticket.”
“They invited players plying their trade in the cold of Europe to Kano where the temperature on match day, was above 30 degrees and the outcome was there for all to see.”
“After qualifying for the World Cup in 1994, 1998 and 2002, there was no reasons why we should not be at the World cup in 2006 but Ibrahim Galadima, the NFA chairman at that time, decided on his own, to kill our National dream and left us all in tears.”
“That was why I declared war on him and made sure he never returned as chairman.”
The rest as they say today, is history”
Sambawa, a one time Kebbi state governorship aspirant who stepped down from his position as Sports minister to pursue an ambition he nursed for over a decade said, not qualifying Nigeria for the 2006 world cup in Germany remains the biggest setback of his short spell as sports minister.
He is however happy that since then, the Nation has not looked back.
“So far, we have qualified for the last two editions of the World cup. This year, we did qualify in style, as the first African Nation to pick a ticket.”
“Remember we didn’t lose a single game on the road and that is why I think Amaju Pinnick and all those behind the success story deserve some accolades.”
“We might have our differences as stakeholders but we must stand solidly behind the team and the Pinnick led NFF executive committee to go through this hurdle.”
“The World cup is for the thirty two best football playing Nations in the world, Nigeria is ranked among the best “. Why can’t we as a people rally around our team and forget our personal differences he asked rhetorically.”
“You never can tell, these boys can shock the world.”
“Victory for the team is victory for all. We must stay united to win,”