Shocking verdict of two former AFN presidents:
Team Nigeria in a matter of weeks is due to be in Rio 2016 for the Olympic Games but as always, preparations have been left till the last minute. The country would literally be banking on miracles for medals.
Miracles as we know don’t happen everyday. In London four years ago, there was no miracle for Team Nigeria and the country returned home without medals.
A fortnight ago, the President of Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Habu Gumel had at a press briefing in Lagos disclosed that a total of 70 Nigerian athletes have qualified for the Olympics.
Should the nation’s female basketball team qualify in their playoff billed for France next week, then the country’s contingent would swell to over 80 athletes.
Two men that are not excited in spite of the relatively high number of Nigerian athletes that pulled through
to the games are the two former presidents of Athletics
Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Dan Ngerem and Tony Urhobo.
The two athletics buffs in separate interviews granted Saturday Sunsports are wondering
where the medals will come from when the chips are down in Rio.
Ngerem noted that nothing has changed since after London 2012 declaring that it is the same old story of waiting for the last minute.
In his words: “It is rather disheartening that athletes are funding themselves to competitions to qualify to represent Nigeria in
Rio. It is such a tragic-comedy. Come August the country will “waste” serious
amount of money on a two week “party” in Rio.”
Ngerem stressed that a country that wants to do well at the Olympics
should not have embarked on changes in the sports ministry with less than
six months to the Olympic Games.
“One wonders the thought process that went into the recent massive
disruption in the fabric of our sports administration by throwing
out an experienced DG to the Niger Delta Commission on the platform of
power play and personal ego tripping- should that massive disruption;
needless abrasions and the hurried redeployment not have waited until
after such an important event as the Olympics – why the sudden disruption
of the status quo just a few short months before the Olympics?”
Ngerem who also posited that nothing has changed in sports in the last
one year of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration stated: “One
can go on and on with a lot of vexing issues bedeviling out sports. It is a
strange and intriguing mix of events since the new government came into
power . It is massively disappointing all round from the stand point
of those running our sports. It is all musical chairs and motion without
Urhobo on his part agrees with Ngerem that only a miracle will see
Nigeria win medals in Rio. He is of the view that Nigeria like has been
the case in previous Olympic Games has failed to prepare well.
“What I have seen of Nigeria is the same fire brigade approach that
we have been known for. When the 2012 Olympics ended, it was said
that preparations for the 2016 Games would start immediately and today
the story all over the place is that teams cannot embark on camping due
to lack of funds.
“I don’t understand why we go through the same path all the time
knowing that it would only see us going in circles. Our preparation to
say the least is poor and there’s no miracle in sports. Truth be told, if you
don’t prepare, you don’t win. Gone are the days when we depended on
raw strength of our athletes to perform magic for us. Sports today has
gone scientific and as long as we fail to prepare, we have prepared to fail.”
Urhobo, who was also coach of the national team as well as technical
director of the AFN at different times stated that sports administrators are
beginning to shift the goal post to suit their situation, saying the real target is
now Tokyo 2020.
“Nigeria with all her manpower cannot continue to shift the goalpost
just to suit their situation. Talks about 2020 being the year Nigeria will
make meaningful impact has come up whereas nothing is on ground to actualize
that dream. We must make deliberate steps to show the world that
we’re serious about taking our sports to the next level. It is not enough to
just talk all the time without taking action to show how serious we are.”
Urhobo noted that Nigerian athletes and coaches have been left behind by the rest of the world, because of the seeming neglect of the sport by those in authority.
“There is nothing left in Nigerian track and field. There is no motivation for the coaches to work and our athletes have simply resorted to drugs to enhance their performances,” said the Delta-born athletics buff.
He urged the government to urgently address the situation if the
country is to return to glory in the sport. “In the past as a coach, I knew how much I earned. I even had a car attached to me. But today we have coaches who are begging from their poor athletes. In 2003, I was coach of Benin Republic. I still remember how the government usually gives the top athletes N20, 000 a month for food supplement.
This is aside other monetary incentives. “Other countries make sure that their athletes have the right nutrition. This is what is giving them the edge over our athletes. Nigerian athletes do not have this kind of luxury and nutrition is an important aspect of their training. This is why some of them have resorted to taking drugs that are not prescribed to keep them in shape.
The whole scenario is pathetic,” said Urhobo.