Letter from Nigeria’s Charge d’Affaires in Japan specifying the recipients of the donation [Credit: Sahara Reporters]
Despite the agony and discomfort that the Nigerian team went through which saw them at the Rio Olympics the same day they played their first match – all because Nigerian government officials did not pay the airlines nor the allowances, the players went ahead and did what they had to do: won their first match hours after landing at Rio.
As the embarrassment borne of ineptitude AND the usual what-have-you of top government officials played out in full view of the whole world and as Nigerians in the United States got news of the players being stranded in Atlanta, thousands circulated information about another major disgrace that shameless top government officials had brought the country’s citizens at home and abroad.
Many U.S. newspapers splashed Nigeria’s shame in news and sports sections: “Nigerian soccer team finally flying to Brazil, hopes to arrive by game time” – USA Today, a story that described the situation as “farcical”:
RIO DE JANEIRO — Nigeria’s Olympic men’s soccer team was locked in a race against time to make it to Brazil for its opening match on Thursday, following a farcical mix-up that saw the players stranded in Atlanta.
The squad finally left American soil Thursday morning, boarding a flight that would land in the western Brazilian city of Manaus with just hours to spare ahead of their Group B clash with Japan on Thursday (9 p.m. ET).
Delta confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Thursday morning that the team’s flight had departed as per its 8 a.m. ET schedule. It was due to land between 2-3pm local time, with kickoff set for 9 p.m. [http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/rio-2016/2016/08/03/nigeria-soccer-team-stranded-atlanta-delta/88050756/]
AND CNN: “… Delta Airline has not only footed the check for a private charter flight for the team from Atlanta to Manaus, but the airline also has put the team up in a hotel for the night in Atlanta. All this came down to a moment’s notice, according to Delta …”
Here is another mind numbing headline:
Nigeria’s Olympic soccer team stranded in Atlanta because they didn’t pay for their flight to Brazil
Even though the team had been practising at Atlanta as a sort of good luck wish because this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Atlanta Olympics when Nigeria won gold, the plan was that the team would leave for Rio on July 29.
- While the team was in limbo, it had to continue to practise – not on a pitch or under the real condition they would have to play under the difficult circumstance of not knowing what would happen to them.
- At the Parade of Nations, the team was dressed in track suits which I could not believe would be the clothes they would normally dress in. Of all the teams, Nigeria’s was the only one not properly attired.
- Their kits supposedly arrived the day before they played the bronze medal game.
A Japanese sports enthusiast made a promise that he kept!
As the macabre theater played out for the whole world to see, a plastic surgeon who was at the Rio Games fell in love with the Nigerian team and made a promise despite the fact that his team lost that first match to our team : if they win Gold, he would give each player $30,000; if they win Gold; it would be $20k for silver and $12,000 for bronze.
Dr. Katsuya Takasu, Cosmetic Surgeon from Japan, poses with Mikel Obi, the Captain and Coach Siasia holding the two checks – one for the coach and the other for Mikel and his team mates. [premiumtimesng.com]
There were reports that the money was possibly set to take the Nigerian route by being diverted as salaries or regular payment and we all know what that would have meant.
In the early hours of Sunday morning (Nigerian time), it is good to learn that the Nigeria Football Federation’s condemnation of the former Eagles keeper who let the news out through his Tweeter handle that the money would be “hijacked” is uncalled for because the “integrity” of Nigerian government officials can never be guaranteed.
Dr. Takasu’s presentation directly to Mikel and Siasia, backed by the letter of the Charge put paid to any shenanigan that the coach and his charges would not have been able to handle from the hands of usually rapacious Nigerian government officials.
It’s congratulations to the Under-23 and their leaders, Coach Siasia & Mikel Obi.
Nigeria owes a debt of gratitude expressed through the normal diplomatic channel not only to Dr. Takasu but to Delta Airlines for ensuring that the team got to Rio. Delta has proved to be a good corporate body that does business in Nigeria.
Team members [Credit: Vanguard Newspapers]
SUNDAY, AUGUST 21, 2016. 6:15 a.m. [GMT]