5th March, 2012
Lagos State wheelchair basketball team last week in Asaba, Delta State, failed to win the inaugural wheelchair tourney, sponsored by the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Victor Ochei. Muhammed Audu, captain of the Lagos team and the national team of Nigeria, speaks about how they lost the final match to hosts, Delta State. He also talked about what the Lagos State Wheelchair Basketball Board needs to do for them not to let down Lagosians at the 13th National Sports Festival holding in Lagos later in the year.
How would you describe the tourney in Asaba?
It was an interesting championship even though we are yet to receive our prize money cheque yet. The organisation of the tourney, accomodation of players and most of all, the officiating by the referees was fair. Despite being an inaugural tourney, all the players that participated in the competition confessed that the championship could be rated as a world class wheelchair championship.
Your team (Lagos State) lost in the final to hosts, Delta State. What could you say was responsible for that after being rated favourites for the trophy before the tourney?
There is no other reason than the fact that we lost because we were not the better side in the final. Most of the Delta State players that defeated us by 31-11 points in the final match were Lagos State players.They were players that we used to train with and play for the national team together. Besides that, they also had a couple of players from abroad who gave us a tough time. Also, we had only seven players throughout the tourney instead of twelve players.
Why would a player of Lagos State decide to play for other states?
Well, from what we gathered from the players themselves, it was because they were offered a better welfare package, a lucrative financial incentive and above all, the playing condition in Delta State is far better than what we have here in Lagos State.
You mean Lagos State does not take care of you players?
No, the Lagos State government is trying for us but when you compare what they are doing with states like Edo, Ondo and Delta, the difference is very clear. Hence, our players are poached by these states at major tourneys.
Do you think the movement of Lagos State players to other states could prevent the Lagos wheelchair team from winning gold at the 2012 National Sports Festival, NSF?
Definitely. If the federation does not do something about our players going to play for other states that are ready to take care of them adequately I see no reason why it will not affect us.
What would you advise the Lagos State board for wheelchair basketball to do to win the gold medal at the NSF?
They need to provide adequate training facilities. Also, there is the need to revisit the present financial compensation being given to athletes that represent the state at competitions. Finally, they need to be sincere with us (athletes) when they promise us incentives (educational scholarship, overseas training and so on) before and after tourneys.