*We will do well in Spain
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday received the senior women’s national basketball team, D’Tigress, at the State House, Presidential Villa.
The team which won gold at the just ended FIBA Women’s Afrobasket Championship in Mali returned to the country on Monday night.
President Muhammadu Buhari announced cash rewards of N1m each for members of the team, who won the 2017 FIBA Women’s AfroBasket tournament in Mali and qualified for the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in Spain. He also gave the team’s officials N500, 000 each.
Buhari made the announcement while hosting the victorious players before the commencement of the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He directed the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, to ensure the money was released to the players and officials immediately.
The President assured the team of the Federal Government’s support to ensure that they excelled against other top competitors in Spain.
The Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Solomon Dalung, attributed the team’s victory to what he described as ongoing silent reforms in the ministry.
He said having realised the problems in the sector, the ministry was determined to take steps that would spur Nigerian athletes to glory.
“The reforms have started paying off,” he said.
The minister also attributed the success of the team to the new leadership in the federation, who are determined to bring success to the game in the country.
The team captain, Aisha Mohammed, said the cash reward would spur the players to go for gold in Spain next year.
“We feel overjoyed that the President invited us here. We are excited. We promise to give Nigeria more victories and by the grace of God we will go to Spain and win.
“The cash reward will motivate us to do more by the grace of God,” she said.
On what to expect in Spain, she replied, “Gold medal by the grace of God.”
The President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, Musa Ahmadu-Kida, attributed the success of the team to the democratic process that has returned to the federation.
He added that if the team could achieve such result in three weeks of the new executive, they would repeat the same feat in Spain.
He told journalists after the short ceremony, “The magic in the team’s win is that this time there was an election that was very democratic and we are actually seeing the result of democracy in basketball, where the true stakeholders who have the passion for the game are the people administering the sport.”
On what to expect in Spain, he said, “About a month ago – because this is a three-week old basketball federation that is able to bring the cup to Nigeria – we were asked the same question after our elections what was going to happen in Mali. We told you guys we were going to do exceptionally well, I’m sure we couldn’t have done better.
“For Spain, I’m just going to tell you this, we are going to do excellently well. We are going to try to do much better than we did at the African Championship hoping that we will come within the best three.”
On the financial reward from President Buhari, he said, “I know the President just gave some financial rewards but to my players I can tell you, they won and brought the cup before the financial reward.
“For them, the honour has been to represent Nigeria, the honour has been for them to wear the jersey representing 180 million Nigerians and that was what got them moving.
“That was what motivated them to win the cup. We will go to Spain with the same motivation that we have, with the pride we have in our country and the belief in ourselves, and bring back good results from Spain.”