The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has exempted itself and the Nigerian government from blame over the ordeal suffered by the women U-20 national team, the Falconets, who were forced to sleep on the bare floor of the Istanbul Airport after missing their connecting flight from the Republic of Türkiye to Abuja.
The Falconets, who were eliminated from the ongoing FIFA U-20 Women World Cup by The Netherlands at the weekend, were supposed to return to Nigeria on a Turkish Airline flight from Costa Rica on Monday.
The players’ ordeal came to the fore, yesterday when pictures of the girls lying on benches and the floor at the Istanbul Airport surged on social media.
Responding to the incident, the NFF, in a statement by its Media Director, Ademola Olajire, clarified that several factors, including the inability to secure transit visas for players and officials of the team at the Istanbul Airport, led to the team having to stay 24 hours at the airport in Türkiye.
“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 (Colombia), and another one hour in Panama. By the time the team got to Istanbul, the flight to Abuja had taken off.
“Our officials pleaded for compassionate transit visas 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,” NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, explained.