THE Minister of Sports and Chairman of the National Sports Commission, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi has congratulated the Nigerian male basketball team, D’Tigers for qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics by grabbing the third spot at the FIBA Olympics Qualifier which took place in Caracas, Venezuela. Abdullahi said the team showed unusual passion, discipline and commitment, which are hallmarks of the Nigerian spirit.
In a letter to Tijani Umar, the President of the Nigerian Basketball Federation, Abdullahi wrote: “With the kind of overwhelming joy that followed this historic achievement across our country where people stayed awake to follow the match, one cannot but feel that perhaps, a revolution is about to happen in Nigerian sports and this may ultimately be a triumph for basketball.”
He continued: “The ‘boys’ can be confident that a grateful nation will remember for a long time to come that they, with typical Nigerian grits and determination, have extended the frontiers of our achievements in sports by qualifying our country for the men’s basketball events of the Olympic for the first time ever. “
He however urged the team not to be lulled by its present victory but to focus on the ultimate prize. “The destination is London. And, I have no doubt in my mind, that with the Almighty God on our side and with the same commitment and will to excel, D’Tigers will triumph in London and your names would be written in gold.”
He also assured the team of Government’s unalloyed support. D’Tigers made the cut for the Olympics Games after beating Dominican Republic 88-73 in an exciting third-place match Sunday night. The team had earlier defeated Lithuania and Greece. But lost to Russia at the semi-final. After its first loss, the Minister had charged the team not to allow the defeat to dampen their spirit.
“What happened at the Semi-final yesterday (Sunday) against Russia was a mere stumble, because Tigers don’t fall. As you wake up today, you have to forget that defeat and seize your place in history by beating Dominican Republic to qualify for London. Every man and woman, every child in our country pray for you on this day. By the grace of the almighty God, you shall be victorious,” Abdullahi wrote in a letter that was read to the whole team.