As Team Nigeria prepares for the 15th African U-18 and U-20 Athletics Championships in Zambia, head coach of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Seigha Porbeni, says the target is for the nation to finish tops on the medals table.

Four years ago, when the competition was held in Cote d’Ivoire, Team Nigeria finished third behind South Africa and Kenya.

To Porbeni, the trip to Cote d’Ivoire 2019 under former AFN President, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, was the worst trip ever for Nigeria athletics.

“It was by God’s Grace that we survived it,” Porbeni recalls in a chat with The Guardian, yesterday. “We travelled with 106 young athletes to Cote d’Ivoire in 2019 and slept on the road for three days, no money, no food, no water for the young athletes. In the end, we finished third on the medals table with 13 gold, six silver and 13 bronze medals. I am sure such bad experience won’t happen again in Nigeria’s athletics,” Porbeni stated.

The Guardian recalls that the AFN leadership then allegedly received N13 million from the Federal Government for the trip to Cote d’Ivoire in 2019, but decided to endanger young athletes and their officials on the road for three days.

The shoddy arrangement to Cote d’Ivoire 2019 notwithstanding, one of Nigeria’s athletes, Favour Offili, emerged the Most Valuable Athlete (MVA) with a big trophy at the end of the championship.

Now, the AFN has invited 55 athletes to camp to prepare for this year’s Africa U-18 and U-20 Championships slated for Ndola, Zambia. It will start on April 28.

Porbeni stated that the target this time is the first position in Zambia, adding that the present AFN, led by Tonobok Okowa, is giving the athletes the best of preparation for the event.

Majority of the athletes for Zambia 2023 were picked after the AFN U-18 and U-20 trials at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna, late last month.

Meanwhile, AFN’s Technical Director, Samuel Onikeku, has revealed that the athletes would be monitored throughout the duration of the camping, which will open today at the High Performance Centre, Abuja.

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