UAE denies Nigerian athletes access to partake in World Swimming Championships

Nigerian competitors have been denied entry to the 15th FINA World Swimming Championships 2021, which will be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

On Thursday, December 16, several of the athletes who arrived in the UAE from European countries rather than Nigeria said they were denied entry to the competition by authorities in the Middle-East country. Philip Adejumo and Abiola Ogunbanwo are among them.

One of the female athletes said; 

“On sighting our Nigerian passports, the UAE officials treated us with disdain.”

Organisers of the 2021 FINA  are yet to respond to enquiries on the cause of the disqualification of the athletes. 

Punch reported that some of the athletes withdrew from the competition, as most of them complained that there were not allowed to see Nigerian officials.

An athlete said; 

“The officials were not even allowed to leave their hotel rooms and competition started yesterday.”

An official also disclosed that while the team was forced to withdraw because one of the coaches tested positive for COVID-19, a British swimmer tested positive and their team was not given same treatment. 

The 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“The reason for the team being withdrawn was because one of the coaches tested positive for COVID-19, yet the officials, local government and FINA all collectively decided to remove everyone in the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.

Another official disclosed that Nigerian athletes were disrespected. 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.

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.”

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