N2.6B FOR OLYMPICS, PARALYMPICS LAUGHABLE -UMAR
Nigeria Basketball Federation president, Tijjani Umar has described as laughable the N2.6b given to Team Nigeria for both the Olympics and Paralympics when nations spent whooping millions in either pounds or dollars to prepare just athletes for medals at the world's biggest sporting stage. He said Team Great Britain for instance which had an impressive showing overall in the just concluded London 2012 Olympics through its Lottery Fund spent 300,000 pounds as insurance cover for only one of its NBA players during the Olympics. 'I consider it laughable that we expected magic with N2.6b for both the Olympics and Paralympics. The truth is that Nigeria has not started in the area of big funding to ensure winning of medals. The money spent by Team GB on their basketball athletes as insurance alone is incredible when converted to naira and more than what Team Nigeria as a whole got to prepare for the Olympics. Insurance cover for only one of the NBA players on Team GB cost 300,000 pounds while investment to prepare each sport Team Great Britain featured over four years amounted to about 30m pounds. The United Kingdom government is to spend 124m pounds annually to prepare its teams for Rio, in 2016.'
Umar said Nigerians should appreciate the effort of the athletes especially basketball which placed 10th in the overall classification involving 12 teams in their first Olympics appearance. 'Yet the Team GB basketball team came 9th only a slot ahead of Nigeria which placed 10th on the overall table. Medals are not cheap to win; they must be properly invested in. The insurance of one Team GB basketball player for the Olympics when converted into naira will tell you the magnitude and nature of investments for medals. The Team GB which has been underachievers in the Olympics before this edition spent billions of pounds to execute the Olympics and prepare their athletes, and the whole world have seen the results.'
He said Nigerians must understand that the basketball team was only 6 weeks old competing with teams that have been together for minimum 8 years. 'We were not in the Olympics to win the gold. We knew it would be impossible but planned that it be a platform for building for the Nations Cup in Cote d'Ivoire next year, World Cup in Spain and Olympics in Rio, in four years time. We came 10th overall in our first qualification for the Olympics, we would have ended better but for the wide margin we lost against Team USA. As far as I am concerned, we got the ticket to play in the Olympics during the Afrobasket in Madagascar when we came 3rd and picked bronze.'
I commend the National Sports Commission for releasing funds for the team to play the qualifiers in Venezuela. '
Umar said the federation has mainstreamed over 60 players to feature for Nigeria in the long term starting from the Afrobasket next year in Cote d'Ivoire, world championship in Spain and Olympics in Brazil four years from now. According to him, Ayo Bakare who guided the team to the Olympics is the best Nigerian basketball coach.