Team Nigeria out of World Relays over visa snag

Nigeria will miss out of the World Athletics Relays, which starts in Silesia, Poland Saturday over visa issues, newsmen reports.

Our correspondent gathered on Thursday that the Nigerian team was yet to secure Polish visas with a day left before the event.

The World Relays serves as qualifiers for the relay events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for teams that are yet to qualify.

Nigeria has not qualified for any relay event at the 2020 Olympics.

According to a source, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, the athletes have been stranded in Abuja after submitting their passports for visas at the American embassy.

“They (sports ministry) took the athletes to the US embassy and thought they would get their passports back same day but they couldn’t.

“The passports are not out after four days and the athletes are stranded in their hotel. Nobody knows what is happening, there is confusion everywhere,” our source said.

One of the athletes, who was set to represent Nigeria in Poland, confirmed to our correspondent that they were still in Abuja, not knowing what next to do.

“We are in Abuja, I don’t know when we are going to Poland,” the athlete, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised, told newsmen.

AFN president Ibrahim Gusau also confirmed Nigeria’s non-participation in a statement on Thursday.

He said the ministry opted to take the athletes on a training tour of the US, instead of the World Relays.

“The scheduled relays in Poland were meant to enable Nigeria secure qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but to our disbelief, the athletes’ passports were diverted to the US 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,” Gusau said.

WA and the Confederation of African Athletics last week ensured Nigeria sent a list of their contingent to the WA Relays after the crisis rocking the Athletics Federation of Nigeria stopped them from presenting a team earlier.

Newsmen had reported that the Gusau-led board of the AFN couldn’t send the country’s representatives for the event, after the national trials they scheduled for March 29 and 30 to select athletes, was postponed over what the federation termed “interference from the sports ministry.”

Meanwhile, the sports ministry says it intends to send the athletes to the US to compete in meets where they will be able to secure Olympics qualification in relay events after their failure to secure Polish visas.

Secretary-General of the Olamide George-faction of the AFN, Niyi Beyioku, in a statement on Thursday, said, “A number of athletics meets have been secured in the United States of America, while a five-nation relay meeting is also on the cards to hold in Nigeria before the window for qualification closes on June 29, 2021.

“We did not get to officially register the team (for the World Relays) 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.”