Francis OBIKWELU aura fait le bon choix

Nigeria not serious about sports – Obikwelu
By Festus Abu
Published: Monday, 12 Jan 2009

Portugal sprint sensation Francis Obikwuelu has taken a swipe at Nigerian officials for the declining fortunes of athletics in the country.

The 100m specialist, who dumped Nigeria in 2001 for the European country, set the standing European 100m record at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, clocking 9.86secs to win silver. The medal was Portugal‘s first in the sprint event.

Obikwelu, who is in the country on holiday, regretted that Nigerian athletes had been missing out on the opportunities of participating at major international competitions due to poor planning and financial support from the government.

The 30-year-old, who became the first man since Italian Pietro Mennea (in 1978 ) to win the 100m and 200m at the European championship in Gothenburg in 2006, said.

“Each time I participated at major international championship and I didn’t find any Nigerian to run in the final with me I always felt for the athletes.

“We have talented athletes in the country but the problem is that there are no deliberate efforts to make them reach greater heights.

“The athletes are willing to perform but the officials keep telling them there is no money. It’s only Nigeria that complains about money; other countries don’t.

“Portugal put a lot of money on me to do well. So if I didn‘t perform at any competition, I would ask myself why.

“Everything I needed to succeed was given to me by the federation (Portuguese Athletics Federation). The federation pays me. Mine is to wake up and run.
“In my early days in athletics in Nigeria, we were supported by the government and we were always camped at the Nigeria Institute for Sports in Lagos.

“It’s unfortunate that the era is gone in Nigeria.”

Obikwelu, who decided to call it quits with the sport after he failed to reach the 100m final of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, promised to assist Nigerian athletes to become world beaters.

He said, “There should be planning for success in Nigeria.

“If money is given to any official for a particular purpose and he fails to perform, the government should ask why.”

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