I Want to Rep My Country, Nigeria-Nneka Ogwumike


*No, You Can’t-FIBA

By Ernest Omoarelojie with Agency Reports


The Federation of International Basketball, FIBA, has clamped a wedge on the quest by Nigeria’s top female professional basketball star, Nneka Ogwumike, to represent the country. On Wednesday FIBA threw out her petition to wear Nigeria’s colours at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics insisting she’s had “substantial involvement” of more than 10 years with Team USA.
The Nigerian Basketball Federation filed an appeal to FIBA on behalf of Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream both of whom were denied because of their previous involvement with Team USA.
In particular, Ogwumike has played competitively for Team USA from 2009 to 2018. However, she now seeks to explore all available avenues, including an application to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, to seek approval to represent Nigeria. But the 2016 WNBA Most Valuable Player, who last played international competitive game for the United States in the 2018 World Cup, may have to wait a while longer to realize her dream of representing Nigeria.
While attempting to help Ogwumike realize her dream, the Nigerian Basketball Federation, NBBF, filed a petition to FIBA, emphasizing that both Ogwumike and Williams would make the Nigerian team one of the strongest at the Games. FIBA refused, with NBBF surmising that the action appears repugnant to natural justice.
“We do tacitly believe there are undercurrents and motivation for such a decision which is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. It is also outrightly discriminatory because players of African descent are approved to play for other countries constantly but the reverse is not the case,” NBBF added.
One of FIBA’s rules is that a player loses his or her eligibility to represent another country in any of its sanctioned event after such a player must have attained his or her 17th birthday. However, another of the organization’s rules offers such players a leeway having empowered its Secretary-General the right to authorize a player to compete for the national team of his or her country of origin if so doing is in the interest of the growth of basketball in the said country.
Importantly, the IOC rules only require an athlete to be nationalised by the country they’re competing for. In which case, any particular athlete can compete for a different country three years after he/she competed for his/her previous country.
Ogwumike is known to have had her last international completion for the United States three years ago at the 2018 World Cup, a development that seems to make her eligible to represent Nigeria at the IOC-organized Tokyo 2020 Olympic and raises the prospects of her hope to play for the country alongside her two sisters, Chiney and Erica.
“It’s something I know my family would be very proud of. I’m hoping it will contribute to the growth we’re experiencing for Africa in basketball.”
Chiney who plays with her sister Nneka at the Los Angeles Sparks, got FIBA’s approval to star for Nigeria as a naturalized player. But she is expected to pay $5,000 Swiss Francs, about $5,468. The real challenge is that her status will affect the Nigerian team as only one such player is thus allowed. She has vowed to appeal th ruling.
Erica, on the other hand, got FIBA’s nod to play for Nigeria without any conditions. In which case, FIBA, by the ruling, gave different statuses to the three Ogwumike sisters.
Peter and Ify, parents of the Egwumike sisters were born in Nigeria before emigrating to the United States of America where they had their daughters, a status which made them dual citizens of the US and Nigeria.
The Egwumike sisters are currently reported to be involved in a documentary on their experiences playing together under the Nigerian banner at the country’s senior female basketball team, D’Tigress.
In particular, 31 year-old Nneka has indeed been a longtime member of the US senior national team. She won gold medals with the squad at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2014 and 2018. She was however, left off the US team for the Tokyo Games when the list was unveiled on June 21.
The announcement came with controversy as it surprised many given that she is the only MVP in WNBA history who has not made an Olympic squad just as she was also controversially left off in 2012.

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