African champions Nigeria flew into Sao Paulo just before midnight on Saturday – the last team to arrive at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup tournament in Brazil.
Earlier scheduled to arrive on Thursday, the Super Eagles are forty-eight hours late after a stand-off with Nigeria football authorities on bonuses payable, despite a mutual understanding with
the team’s Management on a 50 per cent cut.
A miffed but concerned NFF had promptly contacted Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi when players and officials refused to leave their Country Club Resort Windhoek for a scheduled flight from Namibia to Johannesburg on Thursday, thus missing their connection to Sao Paulo from South Africa.
The Sports Minister immediately contacted the Presidency, and despite his pledge to personally bring the balance of the money to Brazil,Coach Stephen Keshi insisted his players would only leave Namibia if the money arrived in the southern African nation.
On Saturday, a first batch from Windhoek to Johannesburg inexplicably missed their flight, but Team Administrator Enebi Achor, who was in the second batch, worked hard to ensure that batch eventually arrived in Johannesburg early enough to retain seats on the connecting flight.
“We are all on the same flight. Everything’s sorted out now,” Achor said on telephone from Johannesburg.
The delegation flew aboard a South African Airways flight SA 224, Airbus 340-600 from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, and were expected to connect another flight to Belo Horizonte that would touch down in that city at 4am Sunday, June 16.
On board were 22 players and 10 officials, with midfielder Ogenyi Onazi having sustained a knee injury in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Namibia in Windhoek on Wednesday.
Officials said on Saturday, before the team left Johannesburg, that Onazi who was in the team that triumphed at the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa earlier in the year and won the Copa Italia with SS Lazio last month, was still being expected to join the squad in South
However, defender Kunle Odunlami and midfielder Obinna Nwachukwu, dropped from the team, flew back to Nigeria on Friday. Onazi was on the same flight. The players were led by Special Assistant to NFF President, Tunde Aderibigbe.
Nigeria play Tahiti, champions of Oceania at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte starting from 4pm Brazil time on Monday, which is 8pm Nigeria time.
The Nigeria Football Federation has informed the Embassy of Nigeria in Brazil about the team’s arrival, and pleaded for extension of usual courtesies, even as the team would be taken over by the Local Organizing Committee of the FIFA Confederations Cup on arrival in Sao Paulo.
It is a 75-minute flight from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte – about the same time it will take the team to drive from the airport to their Caesar’s Business Hotel in the city.
Coach Keshi said on Saturday that the team would have an official training session on Sunday – hours after their arrival, NFF Assistant Director (Media),Ademola Olajire said.
After Monday’s clash with the Oceanians, the Eagles train moves to Salvador, where they clash with South American champions Uruguay at the Arena Fonte Nova at 7pm Brazil time (11pm Nigeria time) on Thursday, 20th June.
On Sunday, 23rd June, the African champions take the pitch at the Estadio Castelao against world and European champions Spain – one of the most anticipated games of the group phase. That match starts at 4pm Brazil time (8pm Nigeria time).
Hosts Brazil, five-time world champions, head Group A that also has four-time world champions, Italy, Mexico and Japan. The final match will come up at Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, June 30.