Hungary/Nigeria sport agreement, football friendly ahead?

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Foreign Trade State Secretary Péter Szijjártó is in Nigeria this week meeting with various business interests and government officials in that country; though no cooperation agreements have as yet been solidified, Nigerian National Sports Commission (NSC) Director-General Gbenga Elegebeleye is enthusiastic about the possibility of the two nations partnering in sport development.

Elegebeleye told local media that such a partnership would “create a viable avenue to share experiences and reinforce each other in specific areas of need to further sports development.”

From this point, both countries’ representatives became surprisingly starkly honest about the two nations’ respective performance in the world sporting arena. “Nigeria is a strong sports nation,” said Elegebeleye. “We have produced great athletes who won medals in Olympic Games. We are sports-loving people and everybody is crazy about sports, especially football. Hungary used to be very strong in sports. They are free people and they love sports. So we have similar aspirations and determination to better our sports development.”

On his part, Szijjártó floated the idea of a friendly match between the Team Hungary and Team Nigeria sides, perhaps in the leadup to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. “Nigeria has one of the strongest teams in the world and it would be an honor for our national team to play yours in a friendly match,” said Szijjártó. “In the World Cup qualifier, we finished fourth in our group, which means we are out of the 2014 World Cup. We thought that we would make the [next playoff round,] but we were badly beaten by the Netherlands, 8-1.”

Nigeria is one of 10 teams still in contention for five spots designated for African nations in the 2014 World Cup.

Such agreements had been advanced previously by Hungarian officials; in June, the country’s ambassador to Nigeria, Zsolt Maris met with Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) president Alhaji Aminu Maigari expressly to establish stronger ties in the soccer sphere. “Hungary used to be up there in the football world but we have fallen in the rankings over the decades,” Maris said at that time. “We’re now making efforts to improve things again. Our prime minister is a keen football fan and he wants the national team to gain global respect once more.”

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