2006 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist, Etinosa Eriyo, in this interview says Nigeria sporting officials are not sincere when it comes to team selection for championships.
The Edo state born special sports athlete insists Nigeria has the materials to make it at the international level but attributes lack of fund, inadequate preparations, tribalism as some of the factors militating against Nigerian sports.
My name is Etinosa Eriyo, a Nigerian naturalized Australian who is also special sports athlete. I was born and grew up in Benin City, Edo state where I had all schooling and I had the idea of being an athlete at a very tender age because I love running.
I started in 2002 with the national championships in Calabar and later represented Edo state in two National Sports Festivals before representing Nigeria at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Events Attended in Nigeria Colors
I attended the national championships in Calabar where I won 2 silver medals in the 100 and 200m dash. I was also at the 2002 National Sports Festival in Edo State where I won 2 gold and a silver medal in the 100m, 200m and 400m respectively.
In the Abuja 2009 edition, I won 2goal medals in the 100 and 200m while I represented the country in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia and I got a bronze medal in the 100m sprint.
Leaving Nigeria for Australia
Well I have been competing for Nigeria for so many years now and I decided to leave for Australia because Nigeria sports is not growing properly, there are so many things going on in Nigeria sports because the officials not being honest to athletes.
This is killing sports in Nigeria but the officials don’t care at all and this is very bad to sports development.
Nigeria sporting officials don’t do things or select athletes on merit to championships.
I was here for so many years and I was not moving on at all. I was not invited to national camp, not making any team for international competition and I really don’t know their reason for doing that.
When the opportunity of going to Australia came, I had to go though I know it was not going to be easier at first but I still went and I have been there for five years now and my life now is better than when I was here in Nigeria or competing for Nigeria.
I actually did well when I made the Team to the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia where I won a bronze medal for Nigeria and that was when I decided to stay there because the country is good.
On the Athletics Federation of Nigeria
Since I am new and I heard there are new people in the AFN, I really cannot talk on them because I don’t know how far they have gone in re-positioning the sport.
Activities in Australia
I am running a personal business in Australia as a personal trainer; people pay me to train them so it has been good so far.
One thing I will say is that being an Australia citizen does not take Nigeria from me; my families are still here so I will be coming home all the time but right now living in Australia.
May be if I was still in Nigeria, nobody knows I might be begging for money to feed because Nigeria sports officials don’t care about the athletes.
When I was here, I don’t even have a club but today in Australia I have my own house and office and I also have workers but here it was not so.
Can you believe some athletes that saw me came to ask for money from me? That is bad; it shows that the Nigeria sport I left five years ago is still the same in terms of motivating athletes. That is too bad.
We are all citizens of this country and we should be treated equally. In the Western World, all the citizens are the same, rich and poor are the same, they live well. It is so annoying to see people that participated in the same tournament with you still begging to feed. In some countries, it is a pride to wear the country’s kit for competition but in Nigeria, the reverse is the case, I know so many athletes today who did not have the opportunity to travel out of the country, they are not doing well while I still know many that are outside the country doing great for their adopted countries.
Running for Australia
Definitely I will do it because I am now their citizen and at the moment whatever I am doing in life now is Australia.
Contributions and way forward for Nigeria athletes and athletics
Like I said earlier on, I have been in Australia for five years now, I am not rich for now but the only way we can contribute to the betterment of this game is by speaking to the government, the government is in charge of sports, Nigeria makes more money than Australia but Australia is doing better than Nigeria.
The problem with Nigeria is that the government spends the money taking care of themselves not minding the athletes at all or the citizens. Government needs to intervene in different areas to make sure all the sports men and women benefit from the little resources that come to sports.
I was not born in Australia but I have benefited from their government immensely, just because I am now their citizen, I can say whatever I want to say unlike here and like I said before, to contribute has to do with the government because that is where the money is.
The way forward for Nigeria athletics is that government should be pro-active in the development of athletics.
My friend, Nigerian athletes are great but with the way the sport is being manage here, the country is not getting the best.
In 2006 when we were to travel for the Commonwealth Games, I was so disappointed when the government said there was no money to take Nigeria athletes to the Games, some athletes were left behind because of money while some whose names were on the list could not go because they were substituted by officials, was that fair?
In Australia, I went for two major surgeries and the government paid for them, but If it was to be in Nigeria, will I be able to afford it? The answer then will be no because there will be no money.
There were two great former governors that were really championing the growth of athletics in Nigeria then, Chief Nosa Lucky Igbenedion of Edo state and Chief James Ibori of Delta state and also Brown Ebewele is also a great motivator of athletics, if not for Ebewele, I wouldn’t have traveled out of Nigeria and if we can get people like them again, I think Nigeria athletics will be great, because we have the materials to make champions but the funds to make the champions is not coming. My Coach, Aziz also contributed to my athletics success today, I am grateful to these people.
Advice to Nigeria athletes
We know sport is a very difficult thing to do in Nigeria, when I was starting, my parents refused that I should indulge in sports. But now they are happy I went into it.
My advice to Nigeria athletes is that they should try and continue to do what they know best and they should also try and make themselves comfortable at the same time.
We know some Nigeria athletes who travel with team abroad run away, well I won’t blame them, I will use this opportunity to tell them, if they have the opportunity of staying back in abroad after competition, they have my support.
There are so many athletes today who have traveled to more than ten countries for competition but today they are still begging for money because the system does not take care of them, it is bad. I took that decision in 2006 and I am glad I did. So it is left to the athletes to do same.