By Salifu Usman, Abuja
Virtually all ex-internationals and sports administrators, with the exception of the president of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Habu Gumel; former FIFA and CAF executive committee member, Dr Amos Adamu; Olumide Oyedeji; Garba Lawal; Chioma Ajunwa and Chika Chukwumerije, shunned 60 sports icons award, held at the Velodrome of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium Abuja, yesterday.
The award was put together by the federal government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports to honour 60 icons and personalities, who have contributed in the development of Nigerian sports in the last 60 years.
Notable absentees were presidents of national sports federations, state commissioners of sports, former athletes, awardees including Kanu Nwankwo, Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Segun Odegbami, Blessing okagbare, Emmanuel Amunike, media mogul, Larry Izamoje and many others.
Speaking at the event, sports minister, Sunday Dare, said the event was aimed at rewarding excellence and hard work. “We initiated this award because of the need to reward our heroes and heroines, who have sweated to put the name of Nigeria on the world map. Unfortunately, most of these patriots have died, but we are also consoled that many of them are still alive.
“Another import of the award is that it will encourage the younger athletes and indeed Nigerians in other fields to always give their best to the country, knowing that their efforts would be appreciated by the country.”
He said the selection process of the sports icons was done by competent stakeholders and it was transparent.
“We asked for nominations for the top sixty, which all the stakeholders were involved in. Over three thousand nominees were gathered, a committee with vast knowledge on sports was set up and they did the painful task to select the top sixty,” he said.
Members of the Super Eagles teams of 1980, 1994, Atlanta 1996 as well as track and field and boxing dominated the list of the 60 sports icons that was unveiled during the celebration of Nigeria’s most outstanding sports icons of the last sixty years.
According to the votes cast to pick the outstanding stars through various platforms, mercurial Super Eagles players like Nwankwo Kanu, Austin Jay-Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi, Garba Lawal, Emmanuel Amunike of the famed 1994 and Atlanta 1996 Dream Team were selected by a wide spectrum of Nigerians.
The 1980 Green Eagles that won Nigeria’s maiden AFCON title on home soil with team captain, Christian Chukwu and Segun Odegbami also make the list individually. Emmanuel Okala and Mudashiru Lawal were also picked as symbols of the 1980 Green Eagles.
The Golden Eaglets of 1985 that paraded the likes of Captain Nduka Ugbade, Victor Igbinoba and coached by Sebastian Brodricks – Imasuen were also recognised. Nigerian first Olympics medalist, Nojeem Maiyegun; Gold medalist, Chioma Ajunwa; Mary Onyali; Sunday Bada; Commonwealth Games Medalists Olawunmi Majekodunmi, Samuel Igun, world boxing champions, Hoggan Kid Bassey, Dick Tiger, Chidi Imoh, female Wrestler Odunayo Adekuruoye also were honoured just as legendary footballer, Teslim Thunder Balogun, Ace radio commentators, Mazi Ernest Okonkwo, Dr Larry Izamoje, Sports Philanthropist Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chief Moshood Abiola, Chief Adebutu Kesington among others.
The event graced by the minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, Ahmed S. Zainab;
minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola; minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikpeazor; minister of State for works and housing, Abubakar Aliyu and minister of State for Health, Senator Adeleke.