By Olawale Ayeni, Abuja
Team Nigeria would not be competing at the upcoming World Athletics Relays scheduled for May 1 to 2, 2021 in Silesia, Poland as the team failed to secure visas for the event.
According to the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN’s) factional president, Engr Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, said this in a statement yesterday, titled, ‘Sports ministry scuttles Nigeria’s World Relays participation’.
A leadership crisis is currently rocking the Nigerian athletics body with Engr Ibrahim Shehu Gusau-led AFN backed by the World Athletics (WA) and Confederation of Africa Athletics (CAA) while Olamide Geroge-led faction is backed by the Sports Ministry.
The statement by the Shehu Gusau-led AFN read, “Nigeria will not participate in the World Relays because the Ministry of Youth and Sports opted to take the athletes to a training tour in the United States for the same relays, they are yet to qualify for, instead of a pre- Olympic Games qualification in Poland.
“The information at our disposal is that athletes who were supposed to represent Nigeria at the World Athletics Relays in Silesia, Poland were taken to the USA Embassy to obtain visas for a training tour of an event they were yet to qualify for.
“The scheduled relays in Poland were meant to enable Nigeria to secure qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo but to our disbelief, the athletes’ passports were diverted to the USA Embassy to secure visas for a training camp for an event they are yet to qualify for. How can a qualification competition in Poland which was our best bet be ignored for a training camp in the USA?
“This is one of the numerous reasons why sports in Nigeria should be allowed to be administered according to international best practices.”
While the Olamide Geroge-led faction said the sports ministry and AFN have moved to ensure Nigeria qualifies for the five relay events at the Tokyo Olympics.
According to the statement signed by Niyi Beyioku, the AFN Secretary-General. “To this end, several 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.
“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.
“After consultations with the Sports 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 relay teams have won eight of the 13 medals Nigerian has won at the Olympics from track and field.