What you need to know:
- West African giants lock horns in final at Abidjan’s Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium from 11pm
- Super Eagles hunt for fourth title against two-time champions Elephants who have shown strong resolve and resilience in the tournament
Fulham coach Silva rooting for his players Iwobi, Basey in Sunday’s final
Nigeria’s Vice President Shettima to attend final of games seen as platform for deepening co-operation
President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria has directed Vice President Kashim Shettima to lead a presidential team to Sunday’s Afcon final, a tournament Cotè d’Ivoire envisages will foster friendship and trade cooperation.
Confederation of African Football (Caf) President Patrice Motsepe had reported that President Tinubu would watch the match live, but a report from Presidential Villa yesterday said Shettima would represent Tinubu.
Shettima had also represented the President at the semi-finals when the Super Eagles defeated South Africa in a pulsating encounter that caused the death of five Nigerians.
Doctors have warned feeble-minded people and those with underlying health conditions not to watch the final as the Nigerian national team is set to face host nation Côte d'Ivoire in a thrilling rematch at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on Sunsay night.
Recognising the unifying power of football and the immense role the Super Eagles play in fostering national pride and unity, President Tinubu believes that Shettima's presence at the finals alongside the delegation is a testament to the government's unwavering support for the team and its dedication to their success.
According to Stanley Nkwocha, Senior Special Assistant to The President on Media and Communications, the federal government has called on Nigerians, both at home and abroad, to unite in support of the Super Eagles, and to raise their voices in encouragement, and create a wave of national pride that propels the team to glory.
As Nigeria mount support for Super Eagles, Kalilou Traore, the Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire to Nigeria, has extolled the 2024 Afcon tournament as platform towards deepening Nigeria-Cotè d’Iviore trade co-operation.
Traore said in Abuja that the Nigeria vs Cotè d’Iviore Afcon final will boost ties between the two countries and described the tournament as an occasion for people to meet and transact business.
“When we meet we can talk about everything, and deepen trade relations between both countries,” he said.According to him, it is expected that after the tournament all the discussion being made possible through the event will go far in the exchanges between Cotè d’Iviore and Nigeria.
“We have worked with Nigeria Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) and they have sent people there.
“Now that we are speaking we have many discussions there with the chamber of commerce in Cotè d’Iviore and also, the organised private sector association.
“All these are targets one thing that is to develop business. This is because Cotè d’Iviore used to be capital of industry of Francophone countries and Nigeria is the biggest economic industry area in West Africa.
“So, we have to work together, many discussions and many initiatives are already discussed to develop this business.
“We think that it will have serious economic impact on our relationship with Nigeria, as well as other countries.”
The Chief Medical Director of Sckye Hospital, Dr Thomas-Wilson Ikubese, has warned Super Eagles fans and football’s lovers who are highly emotional and have heart conditions to avoid Sunday’s final.
Ikubese issued a statement yesterday to warn these category of persons following the casualty recorded in the semi-final game with Bafana Bafana of South Africa which caused the tension that led to the death of five prominent Nigerian fans.
Ikubese suggested that such people should pick their phone and follow the live scores, to avoid screaming and leave the update if they were feeling uncomfortable.
“I will counsel that this category of persons should not watch the live transmission of the match. If they must do, however, they should deliberately engage in diversionary therapy as to minimize their systemic reactions to the activities therein.
“They can pick up their phones and be engaged therein while watching the match and deliberately play down their emotions, acting like the outcome of the match is of no consequence to them.’’
Meanwhile, the manager of Fulham, Marco Silva, has declared that he will be rooting for Alex Iwobi and Calvin Bassey, two Nigerian players, in the final. He said this in the pre-match press conference ahead of Fulham’s game with Bournemouth on Saturday.
“Of course, we have been watching. It’s a mixed feeling for us. It’s been a long time without two key players for us. Right now, we are supporting them in the final.”
Iwobi and Bassey have been instrumental in Nigeria’s race to the competition’s final. The final has caught the attention of Nigerian Citizens Association in South Africa (NICASA) which has started drumming support to the Super Eagles and advising that the team should not go back home without the trophy. Dr Frank Onyekwelu, NICASA President-General, is exalted with the Super Eagles spirit of unity displayed during the matches, as well as the support by compatriots at home and abroad.
“The collective efforts by Nigerians at home and abroad and their calm before, during and after the Nigeria-South Africa AFCON Semi-final match is highly commendable.’’
“We also appreciate all Nigerian citizens at home and abroad. We are thanking them for their calm display in the match between Super Eagles and Bafana Bafana.
“We are all here in Africa to build and develop the economy more, whereby we are brothers and we will continue to foster peace and unity among us,” he said.
Mutiu Adepoju, Nigerian ex-international, charged the Super Eagles to play their best and win the 2023 Afcontrophy against the host nation Cote d’Ivoire. He said the squad has what it takes to beat the host nation.
According to him, playing against the host nation would not be an be easy task, but he want the eagles to play their best.
“The team needs more dedication, with the defensive style they will definitely win in the final,” he said.
Between 1980 and 1989, Nigeria played in Afcon finals - 1980, 1984 and 1988 - winning one (1980). Between 1990 and 1999, Nigeria played in two Afcon finals - 1990 and 1994, won one (1994).
Between 2000 and 2009, the country played in one Afcon final - 2000, and failed to win, signifying the worst decade on that front. Between 2010 and 2019, Nigeria played one Afcon final – 2013 and won.
Sunday’s match is Nigeria’s first Afcon final since 2013.