The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has reportedly denied Nigerian athletes access to participate in the 15th FINA World Swimming Championships 2021 holding in Abu Dhabi.
According to Punch, the athletes said they arrived in UAE on Thursday from European countries, not Nigeria but were denied the opportunity to represent their fatherland.
“On sighting our Nigerian passports, the UAE officials treated us with disdain,” a female athlete lamented. Among the athletes affected are Philip Adejumo and Abiola Ogunbanwo.
It was gathered that some of the athletes withdrew from the competition, complaining that there were not allowed to see Nigerian officials.
“The officials were not even allowed to leave their hotel rooms and competition started yesterday,” one of the athletes told Punch.
An official said, “It is probably important we inform the Nigerian media of the treatment being faced by the Nigerian Swimming Team here in Abu Dhabi (UAE) at the ongoing FINA Short Course World Championships.
“Essentially, the whole team has been forced to withdraw from the competition, despite being vaccinated, doing multiple PCR tests, and not departing from Nigeria.
“The reason for the team being withdrawn was because one of the coaches tested positive for COVID-19, yet the officials, local government and FINA all collectively decided to remove everyone in the team from the competition, deeming them as close contacts.
“But a British swimmer tested positive and their whole team is not banned from competing. For Nigeria, our whole team was banned because of a coach, with whom athletes didn’t have contact. For the British, a swimmer tested positive, and the whole team is still fine to compete.
“In one case, one Nigerian swimmer travelled from the USA just yesterday morning, was fully vaccinated, had all the required tests, didn’t even have any contact with the coach that tested positive, yet he was not allowed to compete.
“For Habibat Abiola, she came from Russia, didn’t have contact with this coach, but again, can’t compete
“So, all these Nigerians travelling from different places around the world, being denied the opportunity to represent Nigeria here in UAE.
“I can assure you, if they were Europeans or Americans, they would definitely allow them to compete.”
Some of the athletes also expressed anger that one of their colleagues complained of chest pain and was only attended to after two hours.
When the medical team eventually attended to the female swimmer, they reportedly provided no assistance and disrespected the Nigerian athletes.
The official said, “And to even make matters worse, one of the swimmers complained of chest pains – which is not surprising since they are isolated in a hotel room, not allowed out to get some fresh air.
“It took the FINA Medical Team almost two hours to respond to this. And their solution was to send this swimmer on her own to the hospital. This swimmer is a minor and was sent by the FINA Medical Team to a hospital by herself.
“Ideally, the Federation is meant to follow their swimmer. However, they are all isolated too and can’t leave their rooms. But this FINA organisation not transparent with anything at all.”
An official reaction could not be gotten from the Nigeria Aquatics Federation formerly known as the Nigeria Swimming Federation as the board of the federation had been dissolved.
However, a member of the dissolved board said, “Nobody can react. Only the ministry can do that. We do not want to be seen as worsening the diplomatic row between Nigeria and UAE. But it is annoying how our people are treated.”
Though organizers of the 2021 FINA are yet to respond to inquiries on the cause of the disqualification of the athletes, there is an ongoing diplomatic row between Nigeria and UAE.
The diplomatic row escalated after the federal government stopped Emirates’ 21 frequencies a week and left the airline with only one flight to Nigeria in response to UAE allocating only one flight a week to Air Peace.