Lagos – MFM FC’s Julius Emiloju, one of the dropped players from the Olympics Games Dream Team VI, on Wednesday expressed confidence that the team would make it to the podium.
Emiloju told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that in spite of the challenges faced by the team during their
preparation toward the Games, they remained focused.
NAN reports that the Dream Team VI will be representing Nigeria at the Rio Olympics which begins on Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The national U-23 team is placed in Group B of the football event of the Games alongside Sweden, Colombia and Japan.
It will be the sixth time Nigeria will feature in the Olympic Games football having made the first appearance in Mexico
Nigeria had an unsuccessful spell then, losing 1-3 to Japan, 0-3 to Spain and a 3-3 draw with Brazil.
The fabled Dream Team, however, created an upset at the football event of the Olympics in Atlanta, U.S. in 1996 by defying all odds to win gold in the football event.
En-route to the final then, Nigeria defeated the tournament favourites Brazil and Argentina to win the gold.
At Beijing 2008 Olympics, Nigeria once again made it to the podium of the football event by winning silver after losing to the Argentina inspired World Footballer of the Year, Lionel Messi.
Assessing this year’s preparation toward the quadrennial event, the Dream Team VI has been enmeshed in lack of funds syndrome, but this has not had much impact on its preparation.
The team was able to secure pre-tournament competition and a training tour in Atlanta, U.S., the same city where it won the first Olympic gold in 1996.
On the team’s readiness for the competition, Emiloju, said that what was in the minds of the players is patriotism and not monetary gain.
He said that plans for the game were well marshalled by the
technical team under the leadership of Samson Siasia, adding that the team would make Nigeria proud.
“We have capable hands in the team and the players have confidence in the technical abilities of the coaching crew; we trained hard and are doing well.
“The training tours provided us with many opportunities to assess our performance and test our strength against some would be opponents.
“Although we have our challenges, the mood is that we should first get it right with the competition; and then, we are sure we will first be the beneficiary.
“The team can win gold medal, or should I say the team will win save any eventuality. I am confident of this because the coach is not new to Olympics,’’ he said.
Emiloju, also said that he could not make the final selection to Rio Olympics because of visa issues with the American embassy, adding that he was a bit disappointed.
“When I was dropped from the party going to the Olympics, first, I felt so sad because it was disappointing to me, but I know that my time will come to represent Nigeria.
“I felt I should be there with the kind of commitment I had put in the team, but I was told that the issue was with my visa application at the U.S. embassy, so I resigned to fate.
“The players in camp are patriotic enough to win medals at the Olympics; they are already dreaming gold,’’ he said.
A sports consultant, Rotimi Arabi, said the team had what it takes to become champions once again, adding that the crop of players in the squad could do Nigeria proud.
“I have no doubt in the assemblage of well-grounded footballers in the team, the coach is careful enough in his selection because he knew what is at stake.
“Although there was a case of poor funding for the team, we have yet to receive any complaint from the camp over the issue.
“The Dream Team VI needs the support of Nigerians to do well in at the Olympics; more so with an experienced Mikel Obi as captain,’’ he added.