Dream Team arrives Manaus few hours before match against Japan
Six-Time Olympian, Segun Toriola, may have seen this ugly situation coming when he declared that preparation for the 2016 Rio Olympics was the worst for Team Nigeria in the Olympic history. The reality has dawned on many sports loving Nigerians.
The Nigerian Olympic football team, Dream Team VI, were initially scheduled to leave their training base in Atlanta, USA for Rio, Brazil last Friday, but the departure was moved to Monday.
The trip was later shifted to Tuesday, and then Wednesday. The players and their officials only jetted out to Brazil in the early hours of yesterday and landed in the city of Manaus just a few hours before their opening game against the Blue Samurai of Japan. The game was played at 2.00 a.m. this morning.
As expected, the shabby travel arrangement for the Dream Team has elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians back home, with majority of the people calling for the head of Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, whom they accused of flouting the order of President Muhammadu Buhari by refusing to hand over preparation of Team Nigeria to the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC). According to reports monitored by The Guardian yesterday, the morale of players and officials of the Dream Team was at the lowest ebb before their departure from the hotel in Atlanta to Brazil. While some of the players were said to have threatened to return to their various clubs just before they were told to move to the airport, others openly expressed regret for being part of the trip.
“This is nonsense. What are we supposed to do now? Just sit in America when the Games are happening in Brazil? We don’t even know when we are leaving and I tell you if we don’t leave today, I will just pack my bags and return to my club,” one of the players told Supersport.com
Some Nigerians, who spoke on different Radio sports programmes in Lagos yesterday, expressed their disappointment at the way and manner the sports minister handled the travel arrangement of the Dream Team and preparation of Team Nigeria in general for the Rio Olympics.
“If President Buhari really meant well for Nigerian sports, he should recall the sports minister from Rio with immediate effect,” one caller, who identified himself as Oludamola from Festac, Lagos said.
Another caller, who gave his name as Sampson from Victoria Garden City (VGC, Lagos), said: “I am sure the sports minister won’t allow his children to go through such rigorous travel arrangement. He has just shown to the entire World that Nigerian government does not care much about the plight of its sports men and women. The sports minister has also shown his weak point. To me, there is no need keeping him in that position. The presidency should sack him immediately.”
Even before the shabby flight arrangement, the team’s preparation camp in Atlanta had been rife with problems, caused by inadequate funding and bad planning. It was learnt that their final tune up game against Honduras was scrapped when the team could not travel to the game site. Even the hotel bills and feeding were said to have been picked by the Nigerian Community in Georgia. According to reports, it took the intervention of Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who hired a Delta Jet for the Dream Team to be airlifted from Atlanta to Manaus, Brazil yesterday.
The flight time from Georgia with one stop for refueling in Panama City, Costa Rica, was a little over eight hours. The players were said to have earlier refused to fly a ‘small’ jetliner provided for them from Atlanta before Osibajo’s intervention came yesterday morning.