The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Wednesday washed its hands off the plight of Nigeria’s U-20 female football team stranded at Istanbul, Turkey airport due to the failure of the Turkish authorities to allow them leave the airport to a hotel.
The team, which crashed out of the ongoing U-20 Women World Cup in Costa Rica, is currently stranded in Turkey.
The pictures of the footballers sleeping on bare floor at the airport had sparked outrage as many criticised NFF.
The Falconets had departed their hotel in Costa Rica at 6.30am local time on Monday and were billed to travel via Colombia to Istanbul for the flight to Abuja.
Unfortunately, Turkish Air delayed their flight from Colombia to Turkey for two hours 30 minutes which led them to miss their connecting flight to Turkey. As a result, they also missed the Turkey connecting flight to Abuja.
NFF, piqued by the tonnage of criticisms on the plight of the teammates and accusations of not handling the issue professionally, said in a statement issued on Wednesday that it was FIFA, not the federation that failed to issue the team transit visa prior to the commencement of the tournament.
According to the NFF General Secretary, Dr Mohammed Sanusi, “it would be recalled that the NFF had implored world-governing body, FIFA to intervene with the Embassy of Germany to issue the team transit visas before their departure from Nigeria, in order for the team to be able to travel through Germany. This did not happen.
“The NFF did not book the team’s tickets from Costa Rica; FIFA did. FIFA also did not envisage the hitches that saw the team delayed for more than three hours in Bogota, and another one hour in Panama. By the time the team got to Istanbul, the flight to Abuja had left.
“Our officials pleaded for compassionate transit visas so as to take the players and officials to a hotel inside the town, but this was not possible as they were informed that Nigeria had been removed from the list of countries whose citizens were issued visa-on-arrival in Turkey.
“The airline then took the team to a sleeping area at the airport and gave them tickets to have meals every five hours. This situation has nothing to do with NFF, who had made arrangements to receive the team in Abuja before the complications in travel arrangements.”