*NBBF denies Oyedeji exit was forced
Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
Sports Minister Solomon Dalung will hold a crucial meeting with the national basketball team, D’Tigers, in Houston, where Nigeria will play her final warm-up match against USA on August 1.
President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), Tijani Umar, said yesterday that though the visit was to enable Dalung pass on goodwill message to D’ Tigers, it would enable the players freely discuss with the minister their concern with Nigeria’s preparations for the Games which begin on August 5.
The basketball team programme has been hampered by poor funding with Umar alleging yesterday that they were still expecting to be paid by the ministry which he also said refused to release money for the Women Olympic Qualifying Tournament (WOQT) in France.
The men team, which won Afrobasket last year in Tunisia to qualify for Rio2016, has held training camps in China and US, making huge mark by beating China (thrice)
and Argentina in warm up matches.
Umar lamented that the delegation is having challenges with registering some of its staff like video men, specialists in charge of practice, conditioning and nutrition, stressing that Nigeria required no less than 10 coaching staff to excel in Brazil as against the two assistant coaches under the current set up.
“We should use our money well to get a result. The Sports Ministry staff are not helping us. Some of them are undermining us which is a huge shame. The minister can’t do the job himself, some people are trying to bring him down,” revealed Umar.
While admitting that Nigeria is in a tough group at the Olympics where D’Tigers will confront Brazil, USA and Argentina in Group A, Umar said Nigerians will be proud of the team as they would improve on their outing in London four years ago.
“In spite of the difficult environment, our players have achieved a lot and don’t have to make a point in Rio. We are in a tough group, but Nigerians will be proud of is,” Umar said.
He also refuted claims that long standing captain Olumide Oyedeji was forced out of the team by player rebellion in America, insisting that was not to the federation knowledge.
Oyedeji, who spearheaded the Olympic qualification in London and led the party to Afrobasket victory, announced his retirement few days to Rio 2016, citing family pressure.
“What I know is that there is time for everything: time to come and go. Oyedeji has been a great player for Nigeria. At the NBBF, we have been devolving lot of responsibilities for him. We are building him for leadership because the federation has great succession plan. He was at the WOQT in France and was also at the All Star Game,” Umar said.