Nigerian national team in danger of missing FIBA World Cup due to funding concerns, per report
Players are now voicing their concerns over social media
The Nigerian Men's Basketball Team is the top-ranked team in Africa and went undefeated while qualifying for the upcoming FIBA World Cup, but according to Colin Udoh of ESPN, they may not be able to play in the tournament in China at all. The issue, according to Udoh, boils down to funding.
The team is funded almost entirely by the Nigerian Ministry of Sports, and last week, a number of players alleged that they had not yet released the money necessary for the team to travel to Beijing for the tournament. A number of players, including Stan Okoye, Ekpe Udoh, Ike Iroegbu, and Gabe Vincent, took to social media to air out their grievances.
"It has been an honor and privilege to play and represent Nigeria in preparation for the FIBA World Cup.
"However, the sports commission of Nigeria refuses to release the money allocated to us for training, food, travel and equipment in order to properly prepare for the World Cup.
"It's made things very difficult as the president of the federation, coaching staff and even players have had to pay for everything personally.
"Hopefully, this issue can be resolved among the higher authorities as my teammates and I look forward to continuing our preparation and goal of reaching the podium at the 2019 FIBA World Cup."
It is unclear what exactly is causing the delay, but it is likely linked to the ministry's lack of leadership since May's elections. President Muhammad Buhari only recently saw his ministerial appointments confirmed, so that could serve as a possible explanation. As of Monday, the necessary funding for Nigeria to compete in the tournament had not yet been released, leading general manager Musa Adamu to reveal that he himself is uncertain when the team will be able to depart for China.
Nigeria is currently slated to be a part of Group B in the World Cup bracket alongside Russia, Argentina and Korea. The top two teams from each group advance into the single-elimination stage, and given the strength of Russia and Argentina as basketball powers, the Nigerian team likely would struggle to advance if they end up playing in the tournament.
It is unclear at this point what FIBA's approach to resolving this situation would be if Nigeria truly does not compete. They could simply award victories to the teams in Group B in place of games against Nigeria, but that presents the problems of pre-sold tickets and media rights. They could also invite another African team. The country with the best record in qualifiers that did not make the 32-team field was Cameroon, home country to Joel Embiid (who does not currently play for the national team), but bringing in another team on such short notice would present serious logistical problems.
Ideally, the Nigerian team will be able to solve its financial woes and participate in the World Cup. Udoh claims that "similar appeals have worked for other sports in the past" and that "eventually, the funds will be released, and the team will travel." But with the tournament less than two weeks away, time is running out for Nigeria.
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