It was an open field for home-based athletes at the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) 2019 Africa Games’ trials in Kaduna, as foreign-based stars stayed away in their droves, thereby leaving the tracks open for the duo of Enok Adegoke and Itsekiri Usheoritse to shine in the 100m.
While Adegoke ran 10.13 seconds in the first semi-final, Usheoritse made it 10.16 seconds in the second race on Thursday evening, as both sprinters went about confirming their recent strides on the international scene.
Usheoritse recently made headlines in Germany, where he ran an inspiring 10.07 seconds, a huge personal best for the 21-year-old sprinter, who also improved his previous fastest time of 10.27 seconds, which he achieved at the 2018 National Sports Festival in Abuja.
However, athletics buffs were not happy with the absence of the foreign-based legion, which left critics describing the trials at Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna as ‘a mere jamboree’ for the competitors.
The marks and timing recorded from various events turned out to be low, as foreign-based athletes kept to their threat not to honour AFN’s invitations, following the track and field body’s inability to pay training grants and failing to settle allowances for their participation at the 2018 African Athletics Championship in Asaba, Delta State.
Ironically, some of the home-based athletes also competed in the trials under protest, as they claimed they were still being owed from their participation in the Confederation of African Athletics U-18 and U-20 Championships in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
They also alleged that they had not been paid allowances for the 2019 ECOWAS U-20 Athletics Championships in Cape Coast, Ghana as well as African Championships and World Relays.
Dramatically, an AFN board member admitted that the federation had been culpable, but blamed it on top officials of the body as well as the sports ministry, both of which the administrator scolded for taking with levity the athletes’ demands and going ahead to call their bluff.
The board member said: “This is a big joke. An Africa Games trial without the foreign-based stars is a mere jamboree as far as I am concerned.
“They told the foreign-based athletes to pay for their flight tickets to attend this trial.
“The question I ask them is what about students who don’t have such money to buy flight tickets?
“The sports ministry is the biggest joke I have ever seen in this country. You can see how these people are messing up Nigerian sports.”