By Jacob Ajom
Still reeling in the shameful disapproval of ten of her athletes from competing at the Tokyo Olympics by the Athletics Integrity Unit, Nigeria may yet again be engulfed in another round of international embarrassment unless good reason prevails and the Ministry of Sports backpedals on its stand concerning the Puma kitting contract with the AFN.
The day the first batch of Team Nigeria arrived Tokyo, the team was dressed in different colours and the press made a feast of it. The appearance of our team made a lot of negative impressions and a clear indication that all was not well back home. That same day, Team South Africa arrived Tokyo and it was clear that they were a team. They were kitted in their national colours and need one point out that their appearing in uniform made them look special – a big contrast from Team Nigeria.
Meanwhile, before Team Nigeria’s departure, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo had unveiled Afa Sports as the official kits supplier for Team Nigeria. How then did the team appear in Japan in tatters?
Sunday Adeleye, former Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria said it was unfortunate that this happened, a situation, he said could have been avoided. “I have never seen this before since I became an adult and knew about Nigeria’s participation at the Olympics. An athlete going to the Olympics should be well-motivated, and kits are part of it; not when people appear in bathroom slippers and apparel in different colours.”
Adeleye said the AFN have a subsisting contract with Puma, a global name in sportswear manufacturing.
Speaking in a no-holds-barred interview on Arise TV, Adeleye said, “there is another disaster waiting for Nigeria. We have a contract with Puma, which we signed in 2019 and we got kits worth $2.7 million. Puma were supposed to kit Nigerian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics but the minister is saying the athletes should not wear them because he is bringing another company to kit them.
“Now, Puma is already threatening because part of the agreement was that we would wear the kits at the Olympics. Now that we are not wearing these kits at the Olympics, Nigeria risks being charged to court for breach of contract.”
Adeleye who is a top official of the Ibrahim Gusau-led faction of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria said, they had made the Puma Kits available for the athletes but the Sports Minister who is calling the shots said no to their offer Said he, “we know there is this leadership crisis, but we agreed that even though we are not going to the Olympics the team should have the kits which have since been supplied.
They are our athletes going to Japan to compete for our country. Mark it, we did not pay a dime, But the minister is saying because he has a problem with Ibrahim Gusau and Sunday Adeleye you will not have the kits. $2.7 million dollar worth of kits for free for 5 years. In this country where we are borrowing to do almost everything, you are saying you don’t care if Puma will take us to court? I think something is wrong somewhere.”
He said that despite the fact that the minister refused the athletes from wearing the Puma kits in Nigeria, they sent the kits to the Nigerian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan but the minister insisted that Team Nigeria would have nothing to do with the kits. This could be costly if Puma presses for compensation.
Corroborating Adeleye’s fears, former President of the AFN, Mr Dan Ngerem said Nigeria risks being blacklisted by major international sportswear manufacturers. “I have been advising them to use the Puma wears because you cannot embarrass an international brand like Puma and think you can run to another tomorrow.
It’s like coming to Nigeria and you go and mess up with Coca Cola and you think Pepsi would support you. No. Ok, if you refuse to take Puma, did you call for tender and ask others to bid? You just awarded the kits contract to another company in a fiat. That is not good enough.” Ngerem said.