by Olatunji Saliu
ABUJA, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Football-loving Nigerians on Thursday trooped out en masse to catch a glimpse of the FIFA World Cup trophy, which is on a four-day tour of Nigeria.
They also gleefully took pictures with the glittering trophy that arrived in the West African country on Wednesday.
The trophy was transported from Uganda to Nigeria where it is scheduled to tour two cities, Abuja and Lagos. And it will head to Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and then Egypt before it leaves Africa for Europe.
Only ten countries in Africa have been granted the chance to host the coveted trophy during its world tour by FIFA.
Upon arrival in Nigeria, the minister of sports and youth development Solomon Dalung, the Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick and other officials were at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in the nation's capital to receive the trophy.
Late Wednesday, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari received the trophy in a ceremony held at the State House.
Buhari delightedly said football has been a great unifying factor among the ethnic groups in Nigeria, lauding the world football ruling body, FIFA, for allowing the trophy to be beheld by soccer fans in the Africa's most populous country.
"Our passion for football cut across all ethnic groups and also plays a key in unifying our peoples from various backgrounds," he told officials who accompanied the trophy on its tour of Nigeria.
A whole-day consumer viewing of the trophy was held at the Old Parade Ground in Abuja on Thursday.
Football-loving Nigerians from all walks of life endured the scorching sun to behold the trophy.
Sharing their excitement with Xinhua, some of them said seeing the trophy and taking a picture with it was a lifetime experience.
"I am very excited because I have never seen the cup before, I only watch it on television. I am very excited," said Josephine Udochi, a female soccer fan who drove 1000 kilometers to the venue.
Udochi said her excitement would not know bounds if Nigeria's male national team, the Super Eagles, works hard to bring the trophy home after the World Cup tournament in Russia.
Ibrahim Musa, another soccer fan, said he was even more delighted to have taken a picture with the trophy.
"It looks like a dream to me. I am very glad that even if I'm unable to see the trophy live in Russia, I've stood beside it now and will cherish this memory for the rest of my life," Musa added.
The trophy and its accompanying team will fly on Friday morning to Lagos, Nigeria's former capital, to be received by the state governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
The FIFA World Cup trophy tour kicked off last September in host country Russia and will visit more than 1000 countries and regions across six continents, traveling 126,000 kilometers in nine months in the lead-up to the football tournament. The trophy will tour Beijing on April 25 and Shanghai on April 26.
This year's FIFA World Cup will be held from June 14-July 15 in Russia. Africa will be represented by Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt.