Beijing 2008 Olympics medallist and Team Nigeria captain to the 2012 London Olympics, Chika Chukwumerije, has appealed to the Germany Embassy following the refusal of the mission to grant visas to the national taekwondo team.
The athletes, who are all national champions, were expected to embark on a training tour of Germany this week as part of the build-up to the 2015 All Africa Games and 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
The 2007 All Africa Games gold medallist told The Guardian at the weekend: “All arrangements have been made – accommodation, transportation, feeding, and training with various clubs in Germany.
“I am simply replicating conditions that helped me succeed in taekwondo by exposing these national champions long before the 2015 All Africa Games and Rio 2016 Olympics; the aim being to increase their chances of winning medals at these important games. The athletes have been training hard in Abuja for the past three months, and were very devastated when the news was broken to them.”
According to Chukwumerije, “I do not blame the German Embassy at all. We should, instead, turn our sights on unscrupulous individuals that have used sports for visa racketeering purposes over the years. They have not been smart. All they have succeeded in doing is make the careers of upcoming athletes more difficult.
“As the athletes’ representative on the NTF board, I will table the matter before the board and make sure that the NTF takes strong measures to restore our credibility before Embassies in Nigeria. We must expose our athletes after we have discovered them. If they cannot get visas, how can we expose them?”
He pleaded with the embassy to review their decision. “For this present situation, I hope the German Embassy will change their minds. These are good kids that have trained hard, and are all National Champions. They include Segun Olushola, Sunday Onofe, Joy Ekhator, Hussain Adamu, and Mariam Abdullahi. They are in a good place, where millions of young people want to be – they are number one in a sport they love. Their dream is to compete and win medals at international tournaments, not run away in Europe. I have big plans for them and other young hard working talented taekwondo athletes; this visa denial will hamper those plans severely.”
With huge support from the National Sports Commission (NSC), Chukwumerije further appealed to the embassy to rescind their stance on denying the athletes visa.
“The NSC released some funds for the trip just last week. I had applied for these funds. I submitted a well-package programme targeting the Amber funds that the NSC carved out for well-packaged programmes. A lot has gone into these preparations, both from Nigeria and from my partners in Germany. How do they go back to tell all those clubs that we won’t be able to make it again? It is a fantastic programme, and I hope the Embassy can help to turn this situation around, for the sake and career of these young sportsmen and women,” he pleaded.