In an exuberant display of Nigerian spirit, student-athletes from the country sang and danced to Davido’s hit song ‘Unavailable’ during the opening ceremony of the FISU World University Games in Chengdu, China, which concluded on August 8. However, their enthusiasm couldn’t mask the challenges they faced during the event. Of the 27 athletes representing Nigeria, many expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of financial compensation, poor coaching, inadequate preparations, and a shortage of kits and equipment. These issues shed light on the broader struggle student-athletes in Nigeria often face on the international stage.
The Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) was vocal about the financial difficulties they encountered leading up to the Games. Lack of funds hindered the athletes’ preparation, participation fees, and equipment procurement. Moreover, the athletes revealed that they had to provide their own kits, with some even borrowing equipment from other countries. The lack of proper coaching was also evident, with athletes forced to improvise with coaches from different countries who often couldn’t communicate effectively due to language barriers.
The contentious issue of allowances further exacerbated the athletes’ frustrations. A meeting between the student-athletes and NUGA’s acting General Secretary, Chidiebere Ezeani, brought disappointment as athletes were told that the FISU Games were classified as amateur, implying that they weren’t entitled to allowances beyond basic expenses. This sparked resentment and debates about the responsibilities of NUGA and the universities in supporting the athletes.
Despite these challenges, the student-athletes found silver linings in the experience. They highlighted the exposure and opportunities the Games provided, along with the valuable lessons they learned in preparation, competition, and cooperation. Many spoke of the pride in representing Nigeria and the motivation to improve their skills for future competitions. This journey, though filled with difficulties, showcased the resilience and dedication of Nigeria’s student-athletes on the global stage.