Udo-Obong vows to stop ‘old’ foreign athletes
Sydney 2000 Olympic Games gold medallist Enefiok Udo-Obong says he will slam the door on old foreigners seeking to run for Nigeria for their final payday, if he gets elected as President of the Nigeria Athletic Federation in Abuja on June 13.
In recent times, several athletes of American descent, mostly those in the twilight of their careers, have been brought in to represent Nigeria by the AFN but Udo-Obong, who declared his interest in the national athletics body’s presidency on Sunday, said a properly developed youth system would help forestall the trend.
He said, “I am one of those that spoke against the hiring of foreign athletes to represent Nigeria.
“I’m against retired athletes or those in their 30s being called up to represent Nigeria but I really would not mind if a 17-year-old American wants to run for Nigeria.
“It means he’s going to go through our developmental system and its going to help our country, our athletes and we are going to have 10 to 15 years of athletics success again. I wouldn’t see it as a retired athlete coming for his pension in Nigeria. But when you bring in a 30-year-old that has run for several countries or cannot even run for his country trying to get a retirement grant from Nigeria, then I have a problem.”
Udo-Obong, who also won a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, lamented the plight of the home-based athletes, who he said have not been properly motivated.
He added that if the athletes were encouraged, they would compete favourably with athletes from other parts of the world.
Udo-Obong added, “Our athletes are down because of a lack of motivation. I know this because I’m very close to some of them; they feel that as long as they are home-based they can’t make the team; there were some that qualified for events but were not taken. Then the high-profile ones like (Gloria) Alozie and (Francis) Obikwelu had personal issues and they left.
“Athletes do love Nigeria but there is a big disconnection and that is what we hope to change. When we focus on youth development, I don’t think we will see the exodus that we’ve seen over the last eight years. And if people do leave it would be because they are not good enough to make the Nigerian team. We must give them that kind of support.”Punch