20 October 2012

NIGERIA : Umar Vows to Eliminate Age Falsification in Basketball

The President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), Tijjani Umar, has made it clear that it is his desire to eliminate all forms of corruption bedeviling the sport.
He stated that it was common knowledge that almost every African country engages in the dishonourable act of age falsification due to the win at all cost syndrome. He declared that the NBBF nonetheless would shun and frown at such. In his words, "Instead of our sports administrators to use overage players and come last at tournaments, I would rather use talented athletes who fall under the appropriate age bracket even if they come last.
For instance, when the under-18 girls went to Egypt, they came second qualifying them for the under-19 World championship in Chile last year and I knew I wasn't going to take them to Chile because they were not under-19 and coupled with the fact that I knew they would be the last in that competition because at that level of the world championship where we were only able to clinch the second position after cheating and then go on to be last in Chile.
"I wasn't ready to be last in Chile, so what I did was that when I went to USA for the men's camp, I scouted and discovered Nigerian girls who were truly sixteen. So we did a merger and I picked the youngest girls of the Nigerian team and merged them with their American counterparts so that we can really play. We took these girls to a friendly game in France. It was a lot of hard work, but by the time we built that team, the eligibility rules had been changed.
So we had an issue, we had only eight or seven players who could be cleared and didn't have enough players. At the time, we gave the commission our files at about January while the tournament proper was slated for July, we also did not have money: at the time nobody took basketball serious although now it's different because they can see achievements. They could see we were doing the right things to make it happen.
When we didn't go to Chile, people complained. But it wasn't a failure; it was a choice not to go. FIBA fined us but we found the money somehow to pay. All these were because I had made up my mind to do what is right. So the aim now is to scout from the MILO programmes where we have a pool of talents, although it is not surprising to find out that cheating is also commonplace in MILO.
The aim now is not to cheat but rather build a team and start from somewhere and avoid the pressure to cut corners. I believe if we start to plan today, we will not win immediately, but in the next couple of years we will begin to win. It will be difficult to stop us then from winning because we have what it takes."
He said Nigerian basketball now has good reputation with the National Sports Commission (NSC) after the sterling performance by the D'Tigers in Venezuela. He stated that in the aftermath of developmental efforts; the NBBF was beginning to reap the dividends of a structured basketball association. "We have to rise above some of these things and the moment we do that we have so much to gain. We have so much goodwill around the world at present.
Before now, the world body always told me that we do not know you, we do not even have your phone number, when we write, you do not reply. If at the time we had an organised organisation, then they could put a face to our name. But now that has changed, in every meeting they will walk up to me and say that we know it is a difficult state.
Now everywhere we go, they walk up to say, hello, Nigeria. We have invitations now. And this is how to plan, we are already planning, I do not care who comes after me, it is my responsibility before I leave office."
According to Umar, the NBBF he manages has laid a solid foundation to sell Nigerian basketball anywhere in the world now.

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