Road To Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Oyebanji and Andrew Oche Odoh are two of Nigeria’s best players

Oyebanji and Andrew Oche Odoh are two of Nigeria’s best players

All we want is fairness in the qualifying process, says NGF president

Nazifi Mohammed is the president of the Nigeria Golf Federation (NGF). Elected to the position this year, Mohammed has been championing Africa’s quest for fair representation when golf debuts at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. But he is being frustrated by the International Golf Federation’s (IGF) insistence that entry to the event in Rio would be based on world rankings since the field cannot take every player, no matter his standing, who wants to play on the biggest stage of world sports.

The battle for fair distribution of slots to the 2016 games has been a long winding one with such luminaries as the immediate past NGF president, Peter Deshi, among the early campaigners for the reversal of the rules.

Shortly before he left office, Deshi had told The Guardian, “Golf is not like basketball and football, where teams gather to play the qualifiers. It uses the ranking system to select players and even if the 300 expected players come from one country they will be the competitors.

“There is a lot of apartheid in golf because it is seen as a white man’s game, but we in Africa are fighting to ensure that every country gets equal opportunity. Golf must be played like any other sport.”

To ensure that ‘things are done fairly,’ Mohammed on Tuesday at the Nigeria Olympic Committee’s (NOC) annual general meeting urged the NOC president, Habu Gumel, who is also an executive committee member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), to present Africa’s position to the world body, arguing that the Olympics should embrace all the continents no matter how rich or poor they are.

He later explained to The Guardian why Africa insists that the mode of entry to the games must be changed.

“It is not justifiable when you consider the level of the players that we have in Africa in general. It is unfair for them to use the world rankings, which they calculate from their opens to pick players that can feature at the Rio 2016 Games. They should use the normal qualifying system.

“In other events, Africa, just like other continents, has its own qualifiers, where players gather to decide the best to represent the continent at the games. But in golf, the use the rating, which favours European and American players.

“When you consider the cost of participating in their opens, then it means no African will ever feature at the Olympics. To even participate in the Opens, you must first go through some preliminary events in Europe and the U.S, which is financially impossible for most Africans,” he said.

Mohammed boasted that Nigeria would win some of the 21 medals on offer at the Olympics if the country’s players were allowed to feature in the event.

“Even the Opens, I am sure Nigeria has the calibre of players to win such events. The Europeans and the Americans win these events because it is easy for them to participate in them.

“Let them throw the Olympic open to all continents and see how we will dominate it,” he boasted.
Mohammed lamented that poor finance was hampering Nigeria’s growth path, saying, “we have missed so many championships because we do not have money to send our players there.

“We will not participate at the World Junior Championship because we do not have the money to attend the event in the United States.”

Even with the poor finances, Mohammed still believes the NGF has done well so far this year.

According to him, the NGF was able to disabuse peoples’ belief that golf was only for the elite, saying some of the competitions across the country featured players from all strata of the society.

“We hosted the junior championship in Oturkpo after successful zonal qualifiers held across the country. At the junior championship we had the support of the R&A, which is a major achievement.

“We also participated at the Junior Championship in Kenya, where our kids won bronze. We believe that with more exposure the children will get better because they hold the key to our bright future.”

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