From Onochie Anibeze, Moscow
The poor funding of other sports other than football has had it’s toll on Nigeria here.
It is a scandal by all standards in sports.
Athletics Federation of Nigeria took athletes to the World Championships (equivalent of World Cup in soccer) without even a day’s camping.
They did not have money to organise a camp for the athletes that they brought here. It is a shame. Only N15m was approved for the championships and the money, we gathered, was released after the delegation landed here in Moscow for the 14th edition of the World Championships.
It’s a long time apathy for which Solomon Ogba, the President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria says the current sports Minister is determined to stop.
The effect of this here in Moscow came to bare when officials discovered that Ajoke Odumosu, the 400m hurdler is injured that she could not train well what more competing among the best in the world. But Nigeria entered her for the event. And in order to avoid sanctions Ajoke had to line out for the event. And what did she do? She beat the gun two times and fouled out.
Beating gun in a 400m event? And two times for that matter? And in hurdles for that matter? It was simply ridiculous and Nigeria bore the shame that could have been avoided if there was even a one week camping for the coaches to assess the athletes they were taking to the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS.
Ajoke has been a top athlete for Nigeria and one known for making sacrifices to don the Nigerian colours. She is among the only four Nigerians with A Standard qualification for the World Championships, the others being 400m runner, Regina George, Gloria Asunmu, the sprinter and of course Blessing Okagbare who is a Long Jump silver medallist and who begins another medal chase in the 200m today.
Tosin Oke, the male Triple Jumper is also not fit. The coaches only found out here. And that’s how Nigeria has become almost a one- athlete nation.
Track and field is an individual sport so the current form or fitness of athletes who train on their own and under their various coaches can only be properly assessed in closed camping shortly before championships which could be months after their qualification marks.
“We would not have had this problem if we had money to camp athletes for even a short time,” one AFN official lamented, adding “it’s a shame that this is happening to a Nigerian team in the World Championships.”
Another official said that the media should help in educating the government on what their priorities should be when planning their allocations for sports development.
Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi is here in Moscow and he appears more determined to turn around sports in Nigeria.
But the rot before he came was deep and his achievement would depend on not only planning but how he succeeds in making government approve more funds for sports and how he reorganises the NSC and ensures transparency in the management of the available little funds.
Abdullahi, however, leaves Russia a happy man as Nigeria broke a 14 year old medal drought in the World Championships. It is equally so for all members of the AFN especially Ogba who has been spending his personal money to run athletics in Nigeria.