The Nigeria men’s basketball team has made the headlines over the last few days following convincing victories against two very formidable male national teams in exhibition games as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.
D’Tigers, as they’re known, made history on Saturday when they became the first African country to beat the United States – who are the first-ranked men’s national basketball team. They then followed it up with another 94-71 victory over fourth-ranked Argentina.
But inasmuch as their preparations have been good so far, the team is currently facing a logistical setback as the players and other staff are yet to receive their official kits for the Olympic games due to a hold-up at Nigeria’s Customs Services, BBC reported. D’Tigers are currently camping in the United States and they’ll depart for Tokyo on July 19.
The kits, which would reportedly cost the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) thousands of dollars to clear from the Nigeria Customs Service, were donated to the team by sponsors from China. Unable to raise the requested funds to clear the Olympic kits, the basketball federation has since requested a waiver.
“There was a bit of delay in documentation to get a waiver because it is between two ministries,” NBBF vice-president Babatunde Ogunade said. “It’s something that should have been done before now, but they are still on it. It’s basically a delay in communication and documentation.”
This is not the first time athletes who have represented Nigeria at the Olympics have experienced setbacks with regards to kit supplies. During the Rio Olympics in 2016, kits were made available to Nigerian Olympians 13 days into the multi-sport tournament. And that was after the majority of the athletes were done competing, BBC reported.
Nevertheless, Ogunade said he’s optimistic D’Tigers will be wearing their official Olympic kits during their first game of the competition. “The goods came a while ago. But the team will depart for Tokyo on 19 July,” he said. “I believe they will get it before the games.”
Meanwhile, D’Tigers coach Mike Brown has also set up a GoFundMe to help raise funds to support the team. The page states that the funds will “help provide training, travel and organizational support to the FONB [Friends of Nigerian Basketball Foundation] program.” At the time of this report, almost $10,000 of the $1,000,000 target had been raised.
Team Nigeria is the only African men’s national basketball team at the Tokyo Olympics. They’ll be vying for a place in the quarter-finals against fellow Group B opponents Italy, Germany and Australia.
The team’s roster features a blend of NBA as well as overseas players. And though the squad also includes players who were not born in the West African nation, Coach Mike Brown said they’re all not oblivious of their roots.
“I am passionate about this thing and it has brought me, so far, more excitement with any job I have had at any time in my career. Even though we haven’t won anything yet, the level of excitement that I feel, the passion that I feel, the opportunity, in my opinion, to help elevate not only the country, Nigeria, but hopefully the continent of Africa, is a remarkable feeling that is hard to describe,” Brown said after their win against Argentina.
“As long as you behave the way your parents and grandparents raised you and give it your all on the court, you’re fine. Because all these guys, from what I’ve seen talking to them, were brought up in homes where they were brought up in the Nigerian way. So they all understand their roots very, very well and they are all passionate about their roots because of their parents and the people that came before them.”