U.S. schools saved Nigeria N26m at national trials, says AFN Performance Director
AFN secures Nike kits for World Championship, other events
United States-based board member and Performance Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Victor Okorie, has revealed how American universities saved Nigeria from spending over $40,000 (about N26m) on flight tickets for athletes to attend the recently concluded National Trials in Benin City.
The National Trials served as selection competition for both the Oregon 2022 World Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
Okorie, who also heads AFN’s Liaison Department, said the present Tonobok Okowa-led board is bent on doing things differently with the sole aim of portraying Nigeria’s image in good light as against the ‘dubious steps’ taken by some board members in the past.
He stated that as performance director and liaison officer of AFN, he had built good working relationships with most Nigerian athletes and their coaches in the United States and Canada.
“While talking with these coaches, I was told that in the past, no one ever called to know how these athletes were doing. They also complained that in the past, no one gave them heads up on when the athletes would represent Nigeria.
“They really appreciate me calling them on a weekly basis to ask about the well-being of the athletes. In return, I tell them that this is what our president wants. He wants things done differently from the previous board and that is why he appointed me to carry out that vision.
“The rapport that I have built with these coaches, athletics directors and university presidents enabled me to tell them to book tickets for our athletes when they are needed to compete for Nigeria. One example was the World Indoor Championships when Texas Tech bought a ticket for Ruth Usoro to attend the Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in March this year. All our athletes, except one or two, had their tickets purchased by their universities for the National Trials in Benin City last week. I can tell you that I have saved over $40,000 in flight ticket money for the AFN/Sports Ministry. It takes sincerity and the rapport that I build over the years to achieve this.”
He listed athletes, whose tickets were paid by their universities to Benin City to include Ashe Favour, Rosemary Chukwuma, Grace Nwokocha, Godson Brume, Amarachi Obi, Knowledge Omovoh, Ruth Usoro, Udodi Onwuzurike, Emmanuel Imeh, Ezekiel Nathaniel, Prosper Chinecherem, Ima Obong and Ezinne Abba.
Some of the schools that bought tickets for the athletes include University of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State University, Texas Tech, University of California, Stanford University and University of Alabama.
Okorie also revealed that he had secured Nike kits for Team Nigeria ahead of the World Championships, which holds in Oregon, U.S., from July 15 to 25, as well as the World U-20 Championships in Cali, Colombia from August 2 to 6.
“I was in touch with Nike representative, who explained to me that he didn’t want anything to do with Nigeria because of their bad experience with past AFN boards. He said Nigeria had burned bridges in the past. But I was able to convince him that this is a different board and we are moving track and field in a different direction. He said ‘Victor, I like you and I believe and trust you. I will provide Nigeria with clothing apparels for the World Championships and World Junior.’”