Top athletics coach quits team Nigeria’s camp
No money to buy ‘common’ pure water for athletes, says Porbeni
“There is always the talk about early camping for Nigerian athletes after a major event, but our people always have this ‘bad habit’ of waiting for a few months before waking up from their slumber. That usual fire brigade attitude has not done us any favour in the past and I see disaster awaiting us in Rio Olympics.” Those were the words of former Nigerian jumper, hurdler and sprinter, Coach Seigha Porbeni, while speaking with The Guardian yesterday after quitting Team Nigeria’s camp in Port Harcourt, where the local athletes are being prepared for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Porbeni is the coordinator of coaches in Team Nigeria’s camp at the High Performance Center, University of Port Harcourt. He and other coaches have been in the camp since November last year taking care of both the junior athletes, who are preparing for the World Junior Championships holding in Poland in August, as well as senior athletes preparing for Rio Olympics.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Porbeni declared he could no longer bear the condition in the camp, saying: “I decided to quit the camp because things are falling apart and I can no longer bear it.”
In his active days as athlete, Porbeni was an all-rounder, competing in seven different sports. He was Nigeria’s first decathlete. He later trained as a coach and it was Porbeni who introduced combined events into the nation’s athletics, when the National Stadium, Lagos, was like Mecca of sports.
“This is our fifth month in the camp in Port Harcourt and there has been nothing like camp allowance paid to us. This camp has athletes for the Rio Olympics and Poland 2016 like Divine Oduduru (100m, 200, and relay), Oghenefejiro Idamadudu (200m, 400m and 4x400m), Mercy Obong (100m and 200m) and Abolaji Omotayo (100m and 200m),” he said.
Porbeni revealed that he had been ‘dying in silence’ in the camp: “Since 2012 till date, national coaches have been working like elephants but we feed and leave like ants. We took the junior athletes to the world championship in Ukraine and only $300 was given to each coach.
“In 2014 at the African Athletics Championship in Morocco we were paid $2,000 after several months on arrival in Nigeria, but ‘our foreign coach,’ America’s Maurice Green was paid $30,000 for being with us for less than a month.
“In 2015, we took the national Junior Athletes to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Athletics Championship and it was the same old story. In that same year after preparing the junior team for Colombia, the trip was finally cancelled after three months of training in camp. It was Prof. Ken that loaned the AFN N200, 000 to decamp both athletes and coaches. No camp allowance had been paid since then,” he stated.
Porbeni added that he “led a national team of four coaches to Samoa for the Youth Commonwealth Games last year and the team of just 13 athletes won 11 gold medals. We were shortchanged N180, 000 each till date, and never received a presidential handshake. In that competition, we had to convert a boxer to a sprinter for one of the relay events and we won a medal. Nobody is asking how we did it in Samoa.
“We have been in camp in the High Performance Center in Uniport since November 2015 without a dime and no provisions. No money to buy water and fruits for the athletes.
“Despite all these stress, I have been told that the AFN President, Solomon Ogba, wants to bring a foreign coach to handle our relay teams for a whopping sum of $25,000. No local athlete that participated in the last World Indoor Championships in Portland, USA was paid allowances. As a matter of fact, their bags were thrown out of their hotel rooms in USA. Their US-based counterparts were fully paid.
“Also, Nigerian athletes who participated in all the Golden Leagues, Warri Relays/Grand Prix have not been paid their prizes and allowances. Are we truly Nigerians? Are we running a federation or dictatorship? Do we need an American to go to China to purchase our Olympic wears? Must we be foreign to be the best? If that is the case, then we also need a foreign minister of sports. There is too much confusion in Nigerian sports with less than four months to the Rio Olympics. Australia is launching their Olympics wears, yet Nigeria has no team in camp. It calls for urgent attention,” Porbeni stated.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders in Nigerian athletics have continued to kick against the decision by the Sports Minister (Dalung) to retain the services of two foreign coaches, Eric Campbell and Angie Taylor for the nation’s athletics.
Those who spoke with The Guardian said the recent World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, USA, where Team Nigeria failed to win a medal exposed the ‘mediocrity’ of the foreign coaches.
One of the analysts pointed out that the coaches (Campbell and Taylor) destroyed the country’s chances at the World Indoor in Portland.
“They have currently turned a 44 seconds runner (Orukpe Erayokan) into a 48 seconds runner in three months. In football, these people would have been sacked even by the sports minister by now. We don’t need their services any more.”