Sports Ministry Protests Visa Denial to U-17 Female B’ball Team


National U-17 Female Basketball team that was denied participation at the FIBA event in Spain recently

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

Ministry of Sports has protested the denial of visa by the Spanish Embassy to the nation’s Under-17 Female Basketball Team scheduled for an international competition in Spain.

Speaking with newsmen after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, said the grounds upon which the athletes were denied visas were untenable.
He said “Our under 17 female basket ball team qualified in Madagascar for the Spain event but sadly after fulfilling all righteousness of visa requirements, even extra ordinary conditions were introduced by Spain, our federation met all but in the dying minute they were denied visa.

“Before I came to the State House, I was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to officially protest the treatment metted to Nigeria. I must really investigate more because the reasons given by the Embassy of Spain is that one, the letter signed requesting for visa was signed by a dead person. I had to in my office today invite the author of the letter to come to my office and he is a living person.

“The second reason was that the lists sent was padded and that there was an attempt to smuggle some people and traffic them across the border. The lists that was brought to me today which I still have here is not up to 18 and these were the people that went to Madagascar for competition and there was nothing like padding in it.

“The last reason was that it was out of time or it was brought in short notice. This one too did not stand the test of the investigation I did. This is why we have protested officially to the embassy and I have written the international federation the treatment they gave to us.

“I guess it will not take too long we still insist on getting visa from Spain for our athletes to go and participate because if we allow this to go on then we are opening the gate for other countries to use this technique of disqualifying Nigeria when they feel we are going to be a threat in any international participation.”

Dalung also explained why the nation’s football teams coached by indigenous coaches failed at international competitions.
According to him, “there is one aspect of this indigenous coaching that has been responsible for the poor performance of football in Nigeria which Nigerians need to know.

“They have not been able to grow above their parochial sentiments. An example is that a coach will train a team, the team will qualify to go to the next stage. Once it becomes international they will now submit a different list of people; not the entire people who qualified.

“This already has violated what is referred to as team spirit in football. A team that played is different from the one that is going. We have that crisis on our hands now,especially with the list of those who are going to Rio (Olympics).”
On the argument for the engagement of foreign coach for the Super Eagles, the minister said he had reservations on the proposal.

He said though selection of coaches was being handled by the Technical Team, his ministry, he said owed a duty to guide it to get what was the best for the country.

He said: “The selection of coach usually is handled by our technical team. We are a supervisory ministry; we have little to do with the process but we have a role in guiding what is best for Nigeria. I have always maintained that if we cannot pay indigenous coaches, we still owe them some months of salaries, some of them have even died without those salaries, do we still go and look for foreign coach and will he be able to tolerate us without salaries for some time moreso that we may also be paying him in hard currency. So, its a fundamental contradiction to swallow easily.”