The Falconets of Nigeria had an easy ride in the group stage of the Under-20 Women’s World Cup at Costa Rica, winning all their three matches until they ran into the Dutch brick wall. After their 0-2 ouster by Netherlands, they departed the Central American country of Costa Rica for Nigeria in Monday, August 22.
Nigerians were however stunned to see pictures of the players sleeping on bare floor and chairs, at an airport in Instanbul, Turkey on Wednesday, August 24. The pictures were said to have been posted on social media by Super Eagles ex-Media Officer, Collin Udoh. The young girls were stranded at the airport for 24 hours!
Following the public outcry that greeted the pictures, officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) have attempted to offer explanations for the serious lapse. The Secretary General of the NFF, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, who went into great pains to say the girls were not stranded — whatever that meant — said when they arrived Instanbul, from where they were to catch a connecting flight to Abuja, the flight had already left.
Missing their flight from Instanbul to Abuja meant they were to wait for another 24 hours before they would get another flight for Abuja. Meanwhile they were unable to procure transit visas earlier, meaning they could not leave the airport. The situation was nothing short of a glorified prison!
In his attempt to explain why they arrived Instanbul late, Sanusi said
there was a three-hour delay at Bogota, Columbia and another one hour delay at Panama. In a statement, Sanusi, who described the report about being stranded as “mischievous” and “misleading”, said “The NFF did not book the team’s tickets from Costa Rica; FIFA did.
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“Our officials pleaded for compassionate transit visas so as to take the players and officials to a hotel inside the town, but this was not possible as they were informed that Nigeria had been removed from the list of countries whose citizens were issued visa-on-arrival in Turkey. The airline then took the team to a sleeping area at the airport and gave them tickets to have meals every five hours. This situation has nothing to do with NFF, who had made arrangements to receive the team in Abuja before the complications in travel arrangements”.
Sanusi further said that the NFF had implored the world football governing body, FIFA, to intervene with the Embassy of Germany to issue the team transit visas before their departure from Nigeria, in order for the team to be able to travel through Germany, adding that “this did not happen”.
It is interesting to note that the NFF explored the option of securing transit visas from Germany even before they left Nigeria for the competition. This can only mean that they believe Germany was a better option. Why did they not start the process of acquiring the German transit visas early enough?
And secondly, the fact that FIFA made the travel arrangements is not enough for you not to have your own back-up contingency plans, also known as plan B. How do you leave your destiny in someone else’s hand and keeping yourself vulnerable? Common sense dictates that for whatever plan one makes there should always be a plan B.
Writing on his Facebook page, Remilekun Oluwaremedies asked,
“Why does the NFF lack planning? Why do we have to disgrace the nation all the time? Can’t provision be made for these girls in a hotel? What kind of country is this?” Also contributing to the discourse, Ernest Brown wrote, “No responsible government of a country can allow this happen to her citizens, talk more of her representatives. I’m ashamed to be a Nigerian”.
The cause of the national embarrassment the country was subjected to in Instanbul can be reduced to the lack of planning, ineptitude and greed. The bottom line of this show of shame is that either someone at the NFF did not plan and budget for unforseen circumstances or they did but such monies have been diverted to someone’s pocket.