Tokyo Olympics: D’Tigress to camp in Belgrade amid funding pains
There is one more bridge on the court of play to cross before the Nigeria women’s basketball team, D’Tigress land in Tokyo, Japan for the 2020 Olympic Games and the work is already on to get them there.
The other challenge for the Nigerian federation is to be able to source proper funding for the event that will showcase the very best teams from all the continents.
The Nigeria Basketball Federation has confirmed that the D’Tigress who smashed through the first stage in Maputo, Mozambique would converge in Belgrade, Serbia early enough for a short camping before the commencement of the FIBA Tournament.
A member of the NBBF and who is also the President of FIBA Africa Zone 3, Sam Ahmedu told the correspondent that Belgrade has been settled for as the venue for the preparations.
“The players will be flying directly to Belgrade and camp for a few days before the tournament starts,” Ahmedu confirmed from New York City on Wednesday.
Serbia is the centre for the Nigerian group.
The back-to-back African champions D’Tigress are grouped in the Belgrade centre with world Champions USA, host country Serbia and Mozambique who were hosts for the African qualifiers in Maputo last month.
The President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation Musa Kida has spoken on the need for early preparation for the team. He made his view known after the world basketball governing body, FIBA held the draw for the qualifying tournaments in Switzerland last month.
“We know that tournament of this magnitude costs money, time and proper planning. We are going to be working with the Ministry of Sports and the Honourable Minister, Sunday Dare to ensure that we return to the Olympic Games.”
Assembling early enough in Serbia may not be the real challenge in the race to Tokyo for the Nigerian women who last made it to the Olympics in 2004. The real challenge remains, getting proper funding for this very important competition. Another ranking member of the Federation who cannot be quoted as he was not authorised to speak on the matter said that getting funding is the real challenge.
Olympic qualifiers are designed to be financed by the Ministry of Sports in Nigeria but in most cases the federations are usually forced to source funds for the qualifiers until the Federal Government’s budget is approved and released.
“Nothing has changed much; the NBBF will have to sort itself out given what was experienced in Mozambique. The NBBF president has provided funding for the Olympic drive so far and no refund has been made to him by the sports ministry.
“Yes, Olympic qualifiers are meant to be the responsibilities of the sports ministry but from experience you may not get to the destination when you depend largely on them.”
Tackling funding challenges is nothing new to the current board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation. In the last three years the federation has prosecuted multiple international competitions at different levels bearing the cost. Refunds for some of the events from the supervising sports ministry have come slowly in staggered forms. In the midst of the funding challenges Nigerian teams have attended all international competitions with the Tigress in particular wining the African cup twice within three years and creating the biggest upset at the FIBA World Cup in 2018 in Spain and they returned home as the 8th best team.
From the draw made by FIBA on November 27, a total of 10 teams would join USA (World Champions) and host country Japan from the Olympic Qualifiers to be played between 6th and 9th of February, 2020 across four countries: Serbia, China, France and Belgium.
Nigeria’s male team D’Tigers qualified for the Tokyo Olympics winning a direct ticket from the 2019 FIBA Men’s World Cup held in China. The men made their debut at the London 2002 Olympics and were able to return at that level with the Rio 2016 Games.
- Article by Pius Ayinor