Reasons Team Nigeria Is Yet To Secure Olympic Ticket In Relay Events
By Niyi Busari
….AFN Statistician Blames Sports Ministry For Missing Relays Tickets In Poland
…..No, Gusau Put Nigeria In This Mess – Mary Onyali
…. Blame It On Poland Embassy – Sunday Dare
Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, statistician, Lekan Soetan has said that Team Nigeria would have secured not fewer than five Olympic tickets in the Athletics events in Poland instead of the difficult situation the Team found itself at the ongoing USA Invitational Tour, BSNSports.com.ng reports.
The national team coach added that with the individual performances of Nigerian athletes, there was nothing that would have stopped Nigeria from picking the tickets at the just-concluded World Relays in Poland. He stated that the idea of going to the USA in search of the Olympics ticket was that of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
In an exclusive interview with BSN Sports, the statistician said; “Nigeria going to the US to secure Olympic ticket is more or less idea of the minister, the idea to qualify for world relay, we were there two years ago, we couldn’t do well but we were able to get national record in 4x200m relay men, we got into the final but unfortunately, we failed to win.
“If we had attended the World Relay in Poland, we wouldn’t be in this position wasting time to secure qualification through USA invitational tour, going by the present individual performance of Nigerian athletes.” He told BSN Sports.
When contacted, Special Adviser on Sports to the Minister of Sports, Mary Onyali, explained why Team Nigeria couldn’t attend the World Relays in Poland, saying that the Ministry of Sports had long before the commencement of the 20th National Sports Festival submitted the names of the athletes to the Polish embassy but were denied visas even when the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama and his counterparts, Sports Minister,Sunday Dare intervened.
“We applied for US visas on Monday and were given to us the next day. It was the Polish people that refused to give us visa with all pressures coming from everywhere. Minister of Foreign Affairs was involved, Minister of Sports was also involved. Both of them told these (Polish) people but they were still saying that we submitted late and that we would have submitted before 14 days to the event. Meanwhile, we have submitted the names of those going to Poland for a very long time before we went to National Sports Festival.”
The five-time Olympian alleged that it was the Federation’s president, Ibrahim Gusau who stopped Team Nigeria from getting visas to Poland.
“It was Gusau that told World Athletics to deny Team Nigeria and that was why the whole routine started again when we came back from Sports Festival. Several times, the Protocol officer and Secretary went and stood at the embassy’s gate for hours but they didn’t let them in. What else did they want us to do? How can our Foreign Affairs minister spoke with Polish Consulate and still denied us visas? That was an insult. Gusau turned the whole story around after stopping our athletes from going to Poland because it wasn’t coming from his faction of Federation.” She alleged.
Reacting to the allegation, Soetan challenged Mary Onyali to produce the letter or any other evidences Gusau wrote or did to stop Team Nigeria from going to Poland adding that the allegation was not true.
“I will like to talk on the letter the president of AFN (Gusau) wrote to WA for Poland to deny them visa, they should be able to provide that, once they provide it the rumour will be laid to rest. It’s not possible for Gusau to write letter to deny Nigeria visas.
“Why would he write to WA to deny us, when he knew Nigeria is going to compete. Is WA issuing visa? He asked rhetorically.
“The truth is, no embassy will give you visa two weeks before the events, you supposed to have done that about a month before then. What normally happens is that, WA always send message to Federation’s email which they will respond to on whether they want to compete or not. And once Gusau they recognise is not recognise by the Sports Ministry, how will they send the names of athletes that want to compete to the WA?
Meanwhile, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare laid the blame of not competing at the World Relays in Poland on the doorsteps of Polish embassy for insisting that they needed at least two weeks to process visas adding that it was the reason they opted for the US Invitational Tour.
“We did everything possible but then when a (Poland) government says you need two weeks to process visas, then there’s nothing you can do. We got visas from American embassy they had three weeks. We also spoke with them with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and we got the support we needed and within three or four days we got the American visas.
“So, when another government says you need two weeks, there’s nothing you can do. And that’s the most important thing. If you’ve gotten everything right and then you get to the embassy and they said two weeks. There’s nothing you can do.”
“Now, we are going to the US because we can have other means that will place us on the road to qualification. If you also followed the outcome of what happened in Poland, for some of the Relays, we have four slots left. So, the chances are brighten.” Dare said.
According to the statistics on World Atletics website, Nigeria is rated 21 in Relay event and needs to climb to 16 position to be able to pick the Olympics ticket.