By Onochie Anibeze
Before the Eagles scored their first minute goal against Ethiopia at the Abuja Stadium on Sunday, there were about three occasions the crowd cheered tremendously.
One was when Jay Jay Okocha entered the arena. The next was when Nwankwo Kanu and Victor Ikpeba walked in. This was followed by the cheers that greeted the filing out of the players for warming up.
The crowd was in good mood when Peter Utaka scored and everybody imagined what a whitewash was in the making.
But that early shine faded into a somewhat clumsy play that got the crowd worried which they showed in their reaction.
At the time Eagles gave nothing to cheer in the first half after the goal Mohammadu Buhari sauntered in and enlivened the atmosphere.
There have been allegations against the Presidential aspirants in the April Elections that they have not made sports an issue in their campaigns, an indication that the neglect of sports would continue. It was apparently on this basis that the crowd came to appreciate the one who appeared to have identified with sports with his physical presence in the Nations Cup qualifier. Again, Buhari chose to sit in the crowd rather than the VIP box. He delighted all and was cheered.
“I know the importance of youth and what sports holds for us,” he said.
“I’ll give sports the attention it deserves if I become President. I have plans for our youth and sports will be one of the tools to achieve a master plan for youth development. I know that the youth will vote for me and they will not regret it if CPC win the Presidential election.”
Asked by AIT’s Alfred Okorigwe to compare the atmosphere at the stadium with what happens in political rallies in Nigeria, Buhari appreciated the crowd at the stadium but noted that his party, CPC, was not one that “rents crowd.”
CPC Gubernatorial candidate in Kwara Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq is a sports buff.
In 1985 when Nigeria first won her first ever World Cup diadem, the then Kodak Under 16 World Cup, Mohammed Buhari was the military Head of State and had the honour of welcoming the team.