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Nigeria’s lost sportsmen

Posted by By DANIEL ALABRAH & FREDRICK EFOLE on 2008/09/14 | Views: 2574 |

Nigeria’s lost sportsmen

Adopted country syndrome for sportsmen has become the fad in recent years. That way, one country’s loss becomes the gain of the other.

Adopted country syndrome for sportsmen has become the fad in recent years. That way, one country’s loss becomes the gain of the other.

The list of Nigerians or sportsmen bearing Nigerian names competing for other countries has continued to swell in the last few years. At the moment, more than 50 Nigerian-born athletes are reportedly competing for their adopted countries in Europe, the Americas and across Africa.

The reasons they opted for greener pastures elsewhere range from insensitivity of the Nigerian national federations, poor incentives to athletes, lack of developmental programmes at home to lack of support from the government and non-release of training grants before major championships.

Francis Obiorah Obikwelu
Obikwelu, unarguably one of Nigeria and Portugal’s most successful athletes, was Africa’s sprint king in the 100 meters and 200 meters while competing for his native country. He assumed Portuguese citizenship in 2001.
Obikwelu brought glory to his adopted country at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he finished second in the 100 meters and won the first silver medal ever in a sprint event for Portugal at the global games.

In 2006 at the European Championships, he got the gold in the 100 meters and 200 meters and became the first athlete to win both events in the same Euro championships since 1978.
Obikwelu was voted Waterford Crystal European Male Athlete of the Year for 2006 by the European Athletic Association, in an internet poll open to member federations, media and the general public.
The former 1996 world junior champion over 100 meters and 200 meters announced his retirement from competitive athletics after failing to qualify for the 100 meters final at last month’s Beijing Olympics.

Daniel Baraladei Igali
Canadian freestyle wrestler, Daniel Igali, was born in Eniwari village, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. He was captain of the Nigerian wrestling team to the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada. After the games, he refused to return with the contingent and remained in the country while seeking refugee status due to political unrest at the time in Nigeria. He acquired Canadian citizenship in 1998.
In Canada, Igali won 116 consecutive matches wrestling at Simon Fraser University from 1997 to 1999. He placed fourth at the 1998 world championships. He finished second at the 1998 World Cup and won a bronze medal at the 1999 Pan-American Games.

Wrestling at 69kg, Igali won the world title in 1999 with a gold medal at the 1999 championships in Ankara, Turkey, and won the Norton Crowe Award as Canada's top male amateur athlete that year. He followed that with a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Igali was voted the Lou Marsh Trophy winner as Canada's top athlete of 2000. He also repeated as the Norton Crowe Award winner.

Moving up to 74kg, Igali won the gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and finished in the quarter-finals in the 2004 Summer Olympics. He was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame on October 25, 2007.
In November 2006, during a visit to Nigeria, Igali was injured in a violent robbery incident. He, however, assisted the country’s coaching crew at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Gloria Alozie (now Glory Alozie-Oluchi)
Gloria was the world junior 100meters hurdles champion from 1986 until she graduated to the senior level. Although she has never won a major international event, but while representing Nigeria, she became African champion twice and still holds the African record at 100 meters hurdles. She became a Spanish citizen in year 2000.

Christine Ijeoma Ohuruogu
Christine is a British sprinter who specialises in the 400 meters - the event for which she is the current Commonwealth, World and Olympic champion. Her victory in the Beijing Games was the 50th gold medal for Great Britain in athletics at the Olympics.

Unlike Obikwelu, Igali and Gloria, who were all born in Nigeria, Christine was born to Nigerian parents in Newham, East London. She studied at the University College, London, where she graduated in Linguistics in 2005. Christine has eight siblings, one of whom is Victoria Ohuruogu, a top sprints competitor in her age group.

These other Nigerians born in Britain also don British colours at international meets - Olympic silver medalist, Phillip Idowu (triple jump), Abiodun Oyepitan (100 meters), Joyce Maduaka (100 meters), Emeka Udechukwu (Discus), and Idowu Jr. – the nephew of Nigerian sports philanthropist, Nathaniel Idowu.
At the 10th IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Grosseto, Italy, three Nigerian kids Ayodele Ikuesan (100 meters), Demi Omole (100 meters) and Mfon Etim (4 x 100 meters) turned out for France, United States of America and Sweden respectively.

Florence Ekpo-Umoh
German sprinter, Florence Ekpo-Umoh, was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Florence, who ran the first leg of the 400 meters relay for Germany at the Beijing Olympics, last competed for Nigeria at the 1994 World Junior Championships. She defected to Germany in 1995 during a training camp there, married her German trainer in 1998 and received German citizenship in 2000. Since 1998, she has represented the sports club, USC Mainz.
In 2003, Ekpo-Umoh was found guilty of stanozolol doping. The sample was delivered on January 24, 2003 in an out-of-competition test in South Africa. She was suspended from the sport until March 2005.

Toto Adaruns Tamuz Temile
Known simply as Toto Tamuz, he is a Nigerian-born Israeli footballer who plays for Beitar Jerusalem. He is a new addition at Teddy, having joined from boyhood club, Hapoel Petah Tikva, where he had a break out first season. He scored on his full Israeli national team debut against Andorra in Euro 2008 qualifying on September 6, 2006.

Although born in Nigeria, his parents came to Israel in 1990, where his father, former Nigerian international, Clement Temile, played professional football for Beitar Netanya. When the team ran into financial dire straits and was forced to stop paying salaries, his parents reverted to working various odd jobs. His parents left Israel in 1991 to try and find gainful employment in Nigeria or elsewhere, leaving Toto temporarily with a team mate of his father.

When it became obvious that his parents were not coming back for him, Toto was adopted (unofficially) by Irit Tamuz, who cared for him and raised him, which is where his Hebrew surname derives from. He started to play organized football at Hapoel Petah Tikva FC, where he made his professional debut during the 2005/06 season in a match against FC Ashdod. His debut was electrifying and he made national headlines after scoring two goals during the match.
Another Nigerian-born footballer, Robin Okotie, plays for Austria’s Under-20 while Aston Villa striker, Gabriel Agbonlahon, rejected Nigeria’s call-up and opted for England.

Ex-AFN boss, Ngerem, laments
Speaking with one of our correspondents, former president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Mr Dan Ngerem, bemoaned Nigeria’s plight.
He described the country’s case as that of a child who is so blessed but became confused as a result of poor planning.

“When you are that blessed, there is the element of confusion. If you don’t plan well, you will not be able to optimize that God-given talent. So when you talk of Nigerians in the Diaspora or athletes who are not willing to come back to Nigeria, it can be an advantage.
I saw in Beijing some of the United States coaches were Chinese. But the Chinese did not lose a lot because they have internalized their problems, used their own people and believe in themselves.
“The Chinese are 1.2 billion and we are the Chinese of Africa. If we can learn from what the Chinese have done with the Beijing Olympics, we won’t bother if one Francis Obikwelu or a Glory Alozie leaves.

“What is happening in Nigeria is that the conveyor belt is not moving. There is no school sports. We have statutory money in the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Scheme, from primary school to junior secondary school…But there is a disconnect between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sports.

“The questions Nigerians need to ask now are, what is happening to that UBE money? Where are you going to get the Chioma Ajunwas or the Mary Onyalis if you don’t invest in the youths?...Our athletes will keep looking for greener pastures,” Ngerem said.

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