AT last, Nigeriaâ€™s juniorÂ Â athletes who have been at the mercy of the Italian Embassy in the country finally left this shores last night for Rome to be part of the World Youth Championship which kicked off on Tuesday. The embassy eventually granted travel visas to the junior athletes after higher authorities prevailed on the Italians who had earlier remained adamant not to do so.
Media Officer of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, (AFN), Mr. Duro Ikhazuagbe, confirmed the departure of the athletes, five days after they were scheduled to leave Lagos for the championships.
â€œThe athletes are billed to travel to Italy this night (Wednesday night).What the federation went through in trying to get Shengen Visas for the athletes at the Italian Embassy is just unimaginable.
It was quite frustrating to have junior athletes subjected to the kind of treatment the consular section meted out to them. At a point, we had given up hope of making the trip before there was intervention from higher quarters on the matter,â€ observed the Media Officer.
The World Youth Championship started Tuesday morning in Bressanone, Italy. Due to the manner in which the Italian Embassy treated the junior athletes, Nigeria with mostly A-standard runners and jumpers has already missed some key events with potentials for medals. The embassy turned down the note-verbally issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and instead asked the athletes to individually bring letter of guarantee from their parents.