Nigerian athletes have always been able to export the distinctiveness of Nigerian dance and music behind the scenes of every competition. A similar occurrence happened as the student-athletes of Nigeria danced to Davido’s hit song, “Unavailable”, on July 28 this year at the opening of the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, China. Their dance was spectacular to the point that it attracted appraisal from audience, and the video was aired on social media by the Nigeria University Games Association. Davido’s song ‘Unavailable’ was said to be prophetic, alluding to the unavailable basic needs for the game.
The students had high expectations in terms of financial compensation but it was cut short before the commencement of the game. They lamented on some major setbacks and factors when they returned after their game. The factors include unfair treatment before and after the competition, unavailability of equipment and kits, inadequate preparations, and poor coaching. Nevertheless, one of the major setbacks was lack of preparation. NUGA picked 100 athletes, after the completion of the competition of the World University Games, to represent Nigeria in Chengdu.
Sport authorities were implored to invest in university athletes.
Chidiebere Ezeani, the acting General Secretary of NUGA, after the body lamented lack of funds, said that the body appeals to the government to provide support and aid for all athletes in the World University Games. Also, corporate sponsors and sport authorities were implored to invest in university athletes. In addition, lack of funds poses a threat to NUGA in aspects of paying allowances, procuring kits for athletes, meeting deadlines for air tickets and paying participation fees. There was no provision for camping which made NUGA to rely on the accommodation provided by the schools for officials and few students.
Also, NUGA was granted a collaboration for an official kit, majorly t-shirt and tracks, for 14 officials and 27 athletes. However, allowances of the athletes and coaching were not provided and equipment for the games were not available. The unavailability of equipment made the schools and athletes to get some of the equipment and kits with their fund. One of the badminton players mentioned that the badminton shorts and shirts were bought by them as a compulsory kit to take part in the game because it was not provided. Also, taekwondo team affirmed that the officials didn’t provide the approved uniforms for them and they had to borrow majority of the required equipment.
There were issues of technical input during the games.
Ezeani affirmed that the association, NUGA, is aware of the insufficient kits and equipment for the athletes, as the athletes notified them earlier. Also, she said that rackets were bought by the University of Lagos and the University of Benin’s Directors of Sports. Lack of funds as a result of unavailability of allowances was made known to NUGA. She added that individuals and travel agents that it borrowed from to balance the tickets’ payment are still owed. Similarly, because of the insufficient kits, the badminton players wore the same playing shirts.
Issues of technical input also affected the athletes during the games despite the strategies of the officials to group available officials into the seven events. The aspect of speaking and communication becomes a problem when the taekwondo coaches could not speak English, leaving the athletes with only the skill of improvisation with them. Ezeani, the acting secretary of NUGA, mentioned that financial challenges is the major shortcomings that bedevils the association, while imploring the university to provide sports equipment for the players.
Allowances will not be paid by NUGA but by individual schools.
According to Ezeani, the sum of N37 million was paid to move all players to the venue during the meetings in China. She highlighted that part of the challenges is the issue of allowances that are not made available for the players, urging them to bury their hopes of receiving allowances. However, Ezeani’s statement was tagged false as the announcement of allowance before the games by Bawa Mohammed, the first vice president of NUGA, showed that it was in progress. However, Ezeani said that all schools received letters from NUGA, addressing no allowance to all athletes, laying the responsibility on their schools.