AFN Technical Director, Sunday Adeleye says “We had zero support from the government. In fact, we wouldn’t have come here if the athletics federation had not sacrificed for us. Furthermore, we had to travel by road with 106 young athletes for three days and arrived in Abidjan a day before kick-off.
Authorities in Nigeria are not channelling adequate resources needed to improve athletics in the country, especially at the grass roots level.
Sunday Adeleye, who led Team Nigeria to the 2019 Confederation of African Athletics U18 and U20 Championships which ended on Saturday in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, recounted the challenges they encountered before and during the competitions.
“It was not easy. It took us just two weeks to put the whole thing together. One week to assemble the athletes and one week of camping before heading for Ivory Coast,” Adeleye told ACLSports in an exclusive interview.
“Not to talk of the harassment we had at the Ivorian border, where some members of our delegation were beaten up by the Ivorian police,” he said.
While some delegations were accompanied by their sports minister, like Kenya, others received huge support from their respective embassies in Abidjan, according to official sources.
However, no official from the Nigerian embassy, which is directly opposite the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, where the championships took place, visited the Nigerian delegation, according to Adeleye.
“The Nigerian embassy here in Abidjan ignored us. They never visited or provided any assistance, whereas the embassy is less than 20 metres away.
“We would have equalled or even outperformed teams like South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia if we had been supported and didn’t compete in this wicked condition. However, we did our best. We finished among the five top teams on the medal table.
“My final word goes to our authorities. They spend money in other things. They invest in football and not in athletics. No football team will travel with 106 players. Athletics help the youths to abandon crime and aim at a bright future.”
Nigeria finished in third position of total medals won, with 5 gold, 6 silver and 5 bronze (16 medals) in the U18 category (boys and girls) and 7 gold, 1 silver and 8 bronze (16) in the U18 category.