RIO 2016 OLYMPICS

Femi Solaja

Nigeria’s Under-23 male football team whose preparation for the Rio2016 Olympic Games at its Atlanta camp has been hampered by poor funding is to finally depart USA today for Manaus, venue of its first game with Japan on Friday.

The team was originally scheduled to fly out of Atlanta for Rio last Friday but could not as the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports failed to provide the tickets to enable the team travel out of America as a group.

The trip was eventually shifted to yesterday with the Nigeria Football Federation officials considering the possibilities of chartering a plan to fly the team directly to Brazil rather than the Dream Team leaving for the Games in batches. That option too could not materialise as planned monday.

But the visit of the Sport Minister, Solomon Dalung, to the football and basketball camps in America however brought some reliefs to the already embattled teams whose Olympic preparation have been tagged the worst by Team Nigeria in the last two decades.

Dalung, according to his Special Assistant (media), Nneka-Ikem Anibeze, had a discussion with the Dream Team Captain, John Mikel Obi, on the state of welfare of the players in America and promised that arrangements have been concluded to airlift the team to Manaus, Brazil venue of their first game in a chartered plane today.

He said clearance has also been obtained from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Rio to facilitate smooth flight operations.

The arrival of Dream Nigeria in the South American nation may coincide with when Team Nigeria contingent that left Lagos yesterday for the games will touch down in Brazil.
> The minister, it was learnt, was not happy with the conditions and welfare of the players as he restated that the ministry was not carried along in line with approved training and camping programs for the games.

“There is no doubt that the ministry was not considered while plans were being made for the Olympic football team. Nevertheless, we shall intervene to remedy the situation. I have appealed to the captain to assume control of the team and restore sanity. For officials who decided to violate the code of their profession and take to media rampage to secure cheap blackmail, their conduct will definitely be measured with existing rules. We have decided to restore sanity and discipline in Team Nigeria. We shall stop at nothing to sanction any conduct that is not within the code of Rio operations. All federations are hereby directed to stick to the rules” Dalung said.

The U-23 team will play Japan on Aug 4, 2016. They are in Group B also with Columbia and Sweden.
The sport minister had earlier arrived in the Hotel ICON Houston camp of the men’s national basketball team to cheer the D’Tigers in their last friendly match against the star studded USA team. D’Tigers is billed to leave today for Rio2016.