By Salifu Usman, Abuja
Following the refusal of the Polish Embassy in Nigeria to issue entry visa to Team Nigeria’s contingent to the World Relays starting tomorrow, April 1, 2021, in Silesia, Poland, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) have moved to ensure Nigeria qualifies for the five relay events at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
To this end, a number of athletics meetings have been secured in the United States of America while a five-nation relay meeting is also on the card to hold in Nigeria before the window for qualification closes on June 29, 2021.
Recall that only the top 16 relay teams/ times will participate at the Tokyo Olympics.
AFN secretary general, Niyi Beyioku, in a statement said the Ministry is properly guided and Team Nigeria is not in any jeopardy, alleging that both the Ministry and AFN had anticipated that the embattled president of the AFN, Mr Shehu Ibrahim Gusau, would block the registration of Nigerian athletes for the event as he illegally held on to the official password of the federation and moved to organise a few meetings in the USA to ensure the teams get the chance to still qualify for the Olympics.
The statement added that the Olamide George-led faction of AFN was only availed the opportunity to register the team following the intervention of the two-man Confederation of African Athletics team that came to Abuja last week to resolve the conflict within the AFN.
‘We did not get to officially register the team until Thursday last week and apply for entry visas at the Polish Embassy. Upon our application, the Polish Embassy insisted it would take two weeks to process the visa applications and all entreaties for a quick consideration were ignored,’ said Beyioku.
‘The sports minister, Chief Sunday Dare had to involve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure we get the team visas to Poland but the embassy stood its ground and we, after consultations with the Ministry decided to switch to our second plan which was to convert a pre-arranged training tour to include qualification for the five relay events.The AFN wants to assure Nigerians that our relay teams will be in Tokyo come this July.
‘The World Relay does not close the qualification window for the Tokyo Olympics.We have other events that we have mentioned and also the African Athletics Championships holding in June in Algiers, Algeria. So, we have quite a number of opportunities to achieve our aim of getting Nigerian relay teams to the Olympics,’ Beyioku.
He berated Mr Gusau for putting personal interest above 200 million Nigerians who are eagerly looking forward to the relay teams to win more medals for Nigeria like they have been doing since 1984 when the men’s 4x400m won the first medal in track and field for Nigeria.
The relay teams have won eight of the 13 medals Nigerian have won at the Olympics from track and field.