Retired Nigerian-born Portuguese sprinter, Francis Obikwelu has revealed the ill treatment meted out to him by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria led him to dump the country for Portugal, The SportsBay.com reports.
Obikwelu in 2015 during a press briefing said the federation abandoned him when he had a knee injury during the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and how he was told the money approved for him was missing.
“I remember Sydney Olympics where I was world number 2 in the 200m. I was in top shape. Unfortunately I had a knee problem. I told my federation I had a knee problem but they didn’t believe me.
“I went on to run up to the semifinals till I couldn’t run anymore. My knee was bad. I was taken to the hospital and MRI was conducted on me. The doctor said to me “I don’t think you would be able to run anymore. Your knee is bad, it is totally destroyed,” he said.
Obikwelu further said he went to the AFN who told him that he was no longer needed as they were other athletes who could replace him.
“I was crying and went to my federation who told me, they don’t need me that they can produce another Obikwelu, that Nigeria has lots of athletes. I asked if they could help me a little bit for my surgery and they said they would approve the money for me.
“I personally went to Canada, had my surgery and recovered and stayed in the hospital for another three months because of blood clot. I almost died but thank God I am alive. Nobody called me except my parents.
“I came back to Nigeria on crutches and I was told the money was approved but they could not tell me where the money was. I was surprised and I thanked them and went back to Portugal and I said I was done. I love my country and I have been doing this for my country since when I was a kid,” he said.
He also advised that Nigeria should begin to treat athletes with more respect as it is done in other climes.
“What Nigeria should be doing is not because there are many athletes, they should respect them. It is all about respect, not money.
“Today, in Portugal if I have a knee problem or I am running bad, they will come up to asking if I need help,” he concluded.
Francis represented his motherland Nigeria until 2001, when he made the switch to his adopted motherland Portugal.
Before his switch to Portugal, Francis had already enjoyed quite a measure of success in Nigerian colours – he won a World Championship bronze medal in the 200m in Seville in 1999, where he also set the Nigerian 200m record of 19.84s.
He was also a member of the 4x100m relay team that still holds the Nigerian record of 37.91s in that event.
Obikwelu holds the record for the fastest time in the 100 m set by a European competitor with a time of 9.86 seconds. He finished second in the 100 m at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, the first medal ever in athletics sprinting events for Portugal.
At the Athens 2004 Olympics, he won silver medal in the 100m, beating the likes of Maurice Greene, Shawn Crawford and Asafa Powell to 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively
He won 100 m and 200 m in 2006 at the European Championships in Athletics and became the first male athlete to win both 100 m and 200 m in the European Championship.