AFN consults ‘international lawyer’ over kits crisis as athletes set for U.S. trip
• Minister cautions team against distractions
After missing the World Athletics Relays in Poland due to visa issues, about 24 athletes and an unspecified number of coaches are set to depart for the United States of America on Thursday to participate in relay qualifiers ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, visited the athletes yesterday at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja preparatory to their departure for U.S.
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) said yesterday it has contacted ‘international lawyer’ over the controversy surrounding a ‘secret’ Puma kits contract, which has torn the federation apart.
Since last year, AFN board members were at daggers drawn following a four-year deal the Ibrahim Gusau-led AFN signed with Germany-based sports kit manufacturing company, Puma.
Puma’s Senior Manager Corporate Communications, Robert-Jan Bartunek, had confirmed then that the agreement with AFN was reached just before the Doha 2019 IAAF World Championships. He failed to give details of the deal.
But the Olamide George-led faction of the AFN rejected the deal, alleging that due process was not followed in the contract with Puma. “How can you sign a kit contract without telling the secretariat?’’ George had queried.
An AFN official told The Guardian yesterday that the secretariat has written to its international lawyer the implications if the athletes do not wear the Puma kits in the relays in the U.S.
“We have written to our international lawyer to seek his opinion about the Puma kits. Whatever he says is what we will follow,” the official said.
While addressing the athletes yesterday, the Sports Minister urged them to remain focused. “I have been monitoring your preparations and have met most of you personally. Whether you are home-based or foreign based, Team Nigeria is one, hence we decided to take you to the U.S. to join others so that you can blend as a team,” he said.
He praised some of the athletes for their recent performances, saying Nigeria has a bright chance of making the podium at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Minister cautioned the athletes against distractions, saying: “Your job is to run and give this country the best. Focus on your training and the goal ahead and leave the administration to us. The world is waiting to see what you can do. You must meet their expectations.”
The Guardian learnt yesterday that one athlete, who might miss the trip to the U.S. relays, is Alaba Akintola who won the 200m title at Edo 2020 National Sports Festival with a time of 20.51seconds.
The AFN was said to have omitted his name and that of coach Deji Aliu in the initial list submitted to the U.S. embassy for visas.