By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com Nigeria
The players and officials of Nigeria’s Falconets in the early hours of Thursday were well received at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja upon arrival from the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
The team were received by Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) staff led by General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, and Sports Minister representative, Toyin Ibitoye.
The team won three of its four games at the Costa Rica 2022, defeating France (1-0), South Korea (1-0), and Canada (3-1), before making 2-0 to The Netherlands in the quarter-final.
News broke earlier this week that the players were stranded in Turkey on their way from Costa Rica.
As a result of the worrying news, the Nigeria Football Federation on Wednesday explained that a number of factors, including the inability to secure transit visas for players and officials of the U20 Girls National Team, Falconets, at the Istanbul Airport, led to the team having to stay 24 hours at the airport in Turkey on their way from the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.
“The NFF did not book the team’s tickets from Costa Rica; FIFA did. FIFA also did not envisage the hitches that saw the team delayed for more than three hours in Bogota, and another one hour in Panama. By the time the team got to Istanbul, the flight to Abuja had left.
“Our officials pleaded for compassionate transit visas so as to take the players and officials to a hotel inside the town, but this was not possible as they were informed that Nigeria had been removed from the list of countries whose citizens were issued visa-on-arrival in Turkey. The airline then took the team to a sleeping area at the airport and gave them tickets to have meals every five hours. This situation has nothing to do with NFF, who had made arrangements to receive the team in Abuja before the complications in travel arrangements,” NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, explained.
It would be recalled that the NFF had implored the world-governing body, FIFA to intervene with the Embassy of Germany to issue the team transit visas before their departure from Nigeria, in order for the team to be able to travel through Germany. This did not happen.
On the issue of body-wear, Sanusi said: “The players were handed three sets of green jerseys and two sets of white jerseys, several house-wear types and training jerseys. The players opted to wash only their jersey top (no other stuff) because when the first set of body-wear was sent to the laundry people at the hotel, it returned with some FIFA and NFF badges at the front and names at the back peeled by the machine.”
Spain will face The Netherlands in one of the semi-finals of the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup while holders, Japan trade tackles with Brazil in the second semi-final game this week.
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