Turkey based Nigerian professional amputee football star, Sarafadeen Olalekan Oyeleke, was surprisingly among the first arrivals at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, as the Nigeria Amputee Football team opened camping on Wednesday for their final preparations to the Mexico 2018 Amputee Football World Cup.
The entry of the Offa, Kwara State born Bursa Gucu Amputee Sports Club defender who led his team to the Turkish Super Cup in 2018 boosts the chances of the Special Eagles against tough group opponents, Brazil and Russia, at the competition scheduled to kick off on October 24 in Quadalajara, Mexico.
The Computer Engineering graduate who also played for Istanbul Ozulurer Sports Club and has featured in three Africa Amputee Football Nations Cup says he is always excited at the historic prospect of playing in the World Cup to fulfill his career dreams.
“The World Cup is the highest point for every footballer. It gives a sense of fulfillment to play at that level. I am excited to join my national team mates once again after being away to Turkey for some years and we are determined to stamp our name at the world stage.
“We will train hard to bring back honours to our fatherland as we bank on the hope that our countrymen will support us to get to Mexico after we have missed the last three editions of the World Cup due to lack of funds.
“Amputee football gives a new life to physically challenged people as part of social development. It is well organised, well supported and gaining ground in countries in Europe and America, and our prayers is that we can deepen it back home here to provide room for as many amputees to chart a productive course in life.
“I have no worries about being in the same group with former champions, Brazil and Russia. I know our team is very strong. We have proved that in the Nations Cup. It is only that we have not had the opportunity of being at the World Cup. Getting to Mexico provides us the chance to prove our stuff at the world stage and I believe this will give some of my team mates the opportunity to launch themselves into bigger clubs in abroad and bring the attention of the world to Nigerian amputees.”
All 20 invited players reported to camp at the Teslim Balogun Stadium Hostel camp facility on Wednesday and opened training on Thursday morning at the Main Bowl of the National Stadium, Lagos, while arrangements are being made to provide them space at the synthetic turf of the Legacy Pitch, subsequently.
Relieved that they have finally been brought to camp, the fate of the team attending the World Cup is still however hanging on the balance as the team is still soliciting funds to make up the cost of flight ticket to Mexico.
They recently launched a public appeal for funds as requests to the government and the corporate community has received no assuring response.
Coordinator of the fund raising, Fred Edoreh, former chairman of Lagos SWAN, disclosed that so far about N4.8m has been contributed by Nigerians but lamented that it is still a far cry from the amount of fund needed for the journey.
“Nigerians have been responding to our appeal for support. Through that, we have been able to mobilise funds to bring the team to camp so that the players can concentrate on technical issues. The most critical challenge is the gathering the amount needed for their return ticket to Mexico. This is about N14m for the team of 15 players and technical crew. Then there is need to provide for better amputee equipments and their upkeep both in camp and while in Mexico. The players are not talking about allowances or bonuses at this point. They just want to be able to attend and take their place in the globe. If we are unable to mobilise the needed fund and they fail to attend, they will be suspended from all their international competitions for long years. This will be sad for the amputee family in Nigeria.
“ We got about N4.8m but it is from this that have started taking care of the players in camp, their feeding, daily needs, medicals and all that. The players themselves have scaled down on many areas. So, what is left is this N14m air fare and with say additional N7m to take care of them during the journey and at the event. We are appealing to Nigerians to please support them. Football has a place for everybody, men, women, boys girls, senior and junior as well as physically challenged people. Nigerians need to help our amputees to take their space in this phenomenon. Disregarding them is tantamount to exclusion, rejection and a denial of the place of physically challenged people in our society and the opportunity the world has provided for them.
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