By Ben Efe
Former African triple jump champion and national record holder, Rosa Collins has said the Sports Ministry and the Athletics Federation of Nigeria are negligent and unresponsive to the plight of Nigerian athletes ahead of the African Junior Championships billed to start this week in Cote d’ Ivoire.
After three weeks of hardship in their camp in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, the athletes and coaches left Lagos in the early hours of Saturday by road for the 16 hours trip to Abidjan. And Collins who is the Nigeria Women in Sports (NAWIS) representative on the board of the AFN said it was a dismay that the athletes had to go through the punishment of hunger and the long tortuous journey to Cote d’ Ivoire.
“This is rather appalling and I can tell you that the sports minister, Solomon Dalung and the AFN president Ibrahim Gusau are totally clueless. If they can hustle to occupy positions they should be able to do the simplest task of preparing the athletes well and not punish them as they are on national assignment.
“How many of their children can go through the pain the Nigerian athletes are going through. They are in nice comfortable homes and schools abroad all through the sweat of the Nigerian athlete.
“That was how in 1997 the AFN hired a rickety bus and we drove all night to Kumasi, Ghana for a regional meet. It was a traumatic experience for so many of us. There were those who were vomiting, some had their legs swollen, yet we still managed to clear the medals table. I was just coming back from injury then and that not withstanding, I still went into the field with pain to get the gold.
“And so in 2019 I’m shocked that we can still be treating our athletes like this. These are junior athletes who are eager to make a name for themselves and the country and so why must we put them through this pain?
“In these days of insecurity and volatile situations in most countries, how can you put these kids on the road? We can only hope and pray they are safe as they go and come.
“But is Gusau and the officials not going to fly to Abidjan? Why couldn’t he and the sports minster seek sponsorship for the trip? And further more, weren’t situations like these part of the sports ministry’s budget for the year, where is the money? Someone must have to answer someday,” Collins fumed.
Also speaking on the issue, former national heptathlon champion, Patience Itanyi added that it was particularly heart breaking to see Nigerian athletes and coaches fasting and praying in the open as they faced hunger and uncertainty.
“This is not just fair to the athletes. Must we now fast and pray about everything in Nigeria?
“By the way I noticed that we have quite a number of female athletes in the camp and we have just two females coaches.
“This was an issue I raised with the sports minister and his response was that “God bless me.” For goodness sake what has Nigeria turned into? These are other peoples children we are talking about here.”