Nigeria may feature in the blind football event of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Already, the Federal Government has started recruiting players for the national team, which would be trained to contest in the games in Japan.
The national blind football team, to be known as ‘Star Eagles,’ is the outcome of rigorous countrywide search by officials of the Para- Athletics Federation of Nigeria aimed at giving talented physically challenged persons opportunity to advance in football like other sports.
Speaking during a four-day national blind football trial in Enugu hosted by a non-governmental organization, BINA Foundation at the weekend, president of Para-Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Dr. Geoffrey Ogu said his association would raise a national blind football team ahead of the Olympics games.
The four-day national trial, which ended yesterday at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu, was attended by blind footballers from various parts of Nigeria. Ogu also said the Foundation was choosing by the Federation to host the trials based on its track record of having an existing blind football team and relevant facilities for the special game.
According to him, “Para sports has been one of the strong sports in the country, and globally, as many of the Para-Athletes have done the country proud with gold, silver and bronze in several national and international competitions.“The Tokyo 2020 will be the maiden edition of the blind football competition as an Olympic event, and we want to go there with a strong team to make history.”
Also speaking at the event, founder and president of Bina Foundation, Mrs. Ifeoma Atuegwu said the organisation had trained over 150 blind and virtually impaired persons in football.
Represented by the foundation’s Project Director, Mrs. Chinwendu Amobi, she added, “We have trained over 150 blind and impaired Men and Women in blind football, 20 coaches and referees and 20 guides as well as 20 special goalkeepers from various states of the country.
“The joy of the visual impaired are my strength and I feel happy engaging them in what the full fledged persons do. I want Nigerians to know that there is ability in disability, that is why we started this blind academy.
“In 2018 we took a lead forward to organize and sponsor blind football league tournaments for both men and women in order to sow the seed for the establishment of a national team.” Mrs. Atuegwu hinted that the foundation would soon embark on camping and extensive training of the selected footballers “in our academy in preparation for the onerous task ahead.