Home-based athletes who have been getting their spikes ready in anticipation of the 1st Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) Golden League initially slated to hold this weekend in Port Harcourt, have been dealt a blow, following an announcement that the competition has been postponed to a yet-to-be determined date.
A release signed by AFN Secretary General, Olumide Bamiduro on Wednesday, stated: “The 1st AFN Golden League scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, River State on 9th May 2015 has been postponed. A new date for this Golden League will be announced”.
There are suggestions that the deferment of the competition is not unconnected to unavailability of funds owing to lack of sponsorship for the league. This same issue has cast a shadow over Team Nigeria’s preparation for the 2015 season, which features major tournaments like the World Youth Championships, the World Championships and All-Africa Games slated to hold in September.
The AFN All-Comers Meet, which held last month in Lagos, had to be combined with the National Trials of the African/World Youth Championships in a bid to cut costs. The country’s contingent to African Youth Championships in Mauritius had to make do with a depleted team that arrived late for the competition, thereby missing out on some key events.
Even the senior athletes on the domestic front were not left out as a good number who were penciled down for both the Penn Relays and last weekend’s IAAF World Relays, couldn’t make it to the US and Bahamas respectively as a result of poor planning and inadequate funding.
Their absence cost Nigeria a lot as the team failed to present a formidable opposition, save the women’s 4x200m team, which won a surprise GOLD medal, and the 4x100m team who saved the nation’s blushes as the only one of our four relay teams to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Commonwealth double GOLD medallist, Blessing Okagbare was so pained by the show of shame in Bahamas that she had to call out federation for not doing enough to support the home-based athletes.
It is evident that there seems to be absolutely no funds to support the very basic needs of home-based athletes, such as simply providing local competitions for them, while the foreign-based athletes, particularly recent converts to Team Nigeria, are getting large allowances to compete for the country.
Having already been deprived of adequate competitions, it is unfortunate that the home-based athletes are at the receiving end of the deal as they have once more been left to their devices until respite comes their way. It remains to be seen if the other legs of the League earlier scheduled for Ife (Osun State), Akure (Ondo Sate) and Benin (Edo State) will hold as planned.