Each member of Nigeria’s Rio Olympics under-23 soccer team — also known as the Dream Team VI — has been promised a cash reward of $30,000 if it wins the gold medal in the soccer event.
Katsuya Takasu, a Japanese plastic surgeon, made the promise to the team after learning about their financial difficulties. Takasu has also announced an immediate lump sum donation of $200,000 to the Nigerian team. The BBC is reporting that Takasu is flying out to Rio to personally hand over the money to Nigerian football authorities.
In a chat with BBC sport, Takasu said he was passionate about the Nigerian team and he hoped to see them win the gold medal. Curiously, the Nigerians defeated Japan 5-4 in their first Group B match at the Olympics, and the Japanese team’s 2-0 loss to Colombia in their third game was enough to send it crashing out of the Olympics soccer event in the first round.
Still, Takasu said, “I am deeply determined to motivate this indomitable and strong Nigerian team. I don’t want to distract them but to push them further to their target — the gold in Brazil.
“I hope to see them win gold. They’ve sacrificed a lot to get to Brazil and reach the semi-finals. Humans with such a strong spirit should be encouraged to perform beyond their own imagination.”
Perhaps to clarify that he had made the gift in good faith and it was in no way a Trojan Horse, Takasu added, “I’ve made previous donations to a Japanese hockey team and other notable causes in the past, but this right now with Nigeria is incredibly passionate for me.”
The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) also confirmed that they have heard about Takusu’s offer. Speaking on behalf of the federation, the NFF Vice President Seyi Akinwummi told BBC Sport that they were impressed by Takasu’s gesture, but that they would need to verify his authenticity before jumping at his offer.
The Nigerian under-23 team has been dogged by financial difficulties; the team threatened to boycott its quarter-final match against Denmark due to unpaid allowances.
A Hard Journey
The team was stranded on its way to Brazil for the Olympics due to financial challenges and poor travel arrangements. In fact, the team was only spared what would have been a national embarrassment due to an airline company’s intervention.
In the end, it arrived at the venue of its first match against Japan barely 6 hours before kick-off.
Twenty years ago in 1996, the Nigerian under-23 soccer team known as the Dream Team won gold in the Atlanta Olympics, giving Nigeria its second-ever Olympic medal.