When The Flag Mattered

by Arukaino Umukoro

When he broke Frankie Fredericks’ 10 year old African record in 2006, at the IAAF Super Grand Prix in Doha, QATAR, the world acknowledged the rise of another sprint sensation.

His time of 9.85 seconds is the current African 100 metre record and the sixth fastest ever in the world? So far, Olusoji Fasuba has not disappointed by winning the 100 metre gold at the just concluded All African Games in Algiers. It’s the aftermath of his actions that have.

That’s why it’s a dicey bet. That the Ekiti state born athlete of a Jamaican mother may or may not follow in the footsteps of his former compatriot and sprinting role model, Francis Obikwelu, to stop running/competing for Nigeria.

“Why should I not be proud to fly my national flag?: Media reports quoted Fasuba as saying, after criticisms were fired at him for shunning the famous green white green colour flag during his lap of honour. He resorted to subtle diplomacy in explaining why he refused to celebrate his victory with the national flag.

“Knowing the regulation on doping, I had to proceed for the dope test following persistent pressure from one of the officials that I should hurry up. Of course, if I had wasted more time in celebrating with the flag after the race, I would have been punished with a ban or suspension.” But, for many athletics pundits, this was a lame excuse for arrogance. The truth of the matter, others say, lay between the lines of his other statement. “Those who are criticizing me are not more patriotic than me. I am pissed off that for all my efforts, all I get is a paltry N50, 000 from Team Nigeria as against the $5,000 each Ghanaian athlete gets for any gold medal.” In a nut shell, Fasuba, who also won gold with the 4 x 100 metres relay team, is bitter with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) over their indifference to his welfare prior to and after the African Games. He also claimed to have defied doctors’ advice to compete in the All African Games. On the strength of this also, Fasuba seems to have a case, not just against the AFN, but for the general welfare of the Nigerian athlete and lack of support.

The sprinter also dropped that the feat he performed was on his personal efforts, expressing that nothing came from neither the AFN nor the National Sports Commission. It was a bank who came to his aid.

The athlete has already been summoned by the AFN to explain his actions in Algiers, which the body claimed was a huge embarrassment to the country’s officials and athletes at the games and.

The AFN Technical Director, Sunday Bada, described Fasuba’s action as unpatriotic and the height of indiscipline. “Has Fasuba contributed to the development of athletics in Nigeria more than anybody?” Bada asked rhetorically.

Inadequacy funds and preparation have been blamed for Team Nigeria’s performance at the Games, where it finished fourth on the overall medals table.

Although Fasuba took a radical route to express his bitterness, it’s not the first time a Nigerian athlete has registered displeasure with the style of sports administration in Nigeria. Some have even changed citizenship to compete for other countries.

“We are not begging anybody to run for Nigeria,” said Dr. Amos Adamu, Director General of the National Sports Commission. “We appreciate him for running but he won’t be the first to adopt another country, if that’s what he wants.”

David Dafiagbon, Gloria Alozie, Francis Obikwelu, and Daniel Igali all have the same things in common; ditching the Nigerian flag for another country in anger over the poor welfare and remuneration of the Nigerian athlete.

”It’s not a good sign at all,” said Tobia Igwe, coach of the Nigerian athletics team; that these star athletes, who could have gone ahead to win the country more glory, now do it well for their newly adopted countries.

At her peak, Mercy Nku once mentioned that she refused the tempting invitation to represent a foreign country with better remunerations package for their athletes. “I love Nigeria and will remain here.” She was quoted to have said.

But, it’s not the same for every athlete who believes the country’s athletics federation makes life difficult for them.

“If I have the opportunity to travel out, I will grab it, and I will prefer the USA or Britain.” Angus Bodunde, a long jumper, is quick to point out that he would jump at any offer to swap the national flag for another.

That’s exactly what a star Nigerian athlete would do when he get fed up with the country’s sports administration. The country has already lost some of its best athletes to more grateful countries. And the list seems to be growing longer by the day.

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Michael September 7, 2007 - 4:05 pm

This is unfortunately not only happening in sports alone. I mean look at the number of educated Nigerians that have dropped the Nigerian nationality for other "grateful" nationalities. The corruption in Nigeria has robbed the nation of millions of intelligent, talented, and, outstanding individuals. Our so-called leaders should really be ashamed of their thievery. As for me I am still looking for the opportunity to work for one of the banks that these thieves bank with in the West, I swear I will clean them dry.

Julius September 6, 2007 - 6:51 pm

I don't blame any athlete for dumping Nigeria for another country. If the country continue to treat it's althetes badly then they should expect nothing short of abandoning the flag. In the recently concluded world games Christine Ohurogu of britain won gold in 400m female and together with Marilyn Okoro won bronze in the 4x400m relay, these are nigerians atleast by name winning medals for other countries. If the sport administrators were sincere these people might be winning medals for our dear country. But whosai, corruption will never allow these people to do the right thing. I can assure it is a matter of time before Fasuba finds his level. And I for sure will not blame him, let the likes of Amos Adamu don on the Nigerian color and go run at the olympics. Idiots!


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