The Nigeria Football Federation NFF and the ministry of sports and youth development have reacted to the viral photos of Falconets sleeping on the floor at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey.
The team, which crashed out of the 2022 Women’s U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica on Sunday, was stranded in Turkey on their way to Nigeria.
Reacting in a joint statement on Wednesday, the NFF and sports ministry claimed that the team’s flight was booked by FIFA and not the federation since “the World Cup is a FIFA tournament.”
It adds that the players could not be handed transit visas because “Nigeria had been removed from the list of countries granted transit visas at Istanbul Airport.”
“The attention of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development has been drawn to viral pictures of our female football team, the Falconets making rounds, portraying them stranded at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey,” the statement reads.
“For the reason of setting the records straight, we thought to lay the facts bare. The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the NFF DID NOT book the tickets. The World Cup is a FIFA tournament. FIFA booked tickets for the team to travel from Bogota to Panama, but for some reason, the flight to Panama was delayed for 3 hours.
“There was another 1-hour delay at the airport in Panama. By the time the team got to Istanbul, the flight to Abuja had left.
“The NFF officials pleaded that the team be given transit visas at the airport so they could head to a hotel in the town, but this was not possible as Nigeria had been removed from the list of countries granted transit visas at Istanbul Airport. So, the airline took the team to a sleeping area at the airport and handed them the tickets to have meals after every 5 hours.
“The Minister has reached out to the team via phone and video calls and they will be homebound soon. It is sad, but this has nothing to do with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the NFF, who had made necessary arrangements to receive the team on arrival in Abuja before the flight hitches.”
In a separate statement, the NFF also addressed the logistical problem suffered by the Falconets during the competition.
It was earlier reported that with a limited number of jerseys assigned to players, the Falconets had to wash their kits with their hands.
But in the statement, published on its website, the federation said: “The players were handed three sets of green jerseys and two sets of white jerseys, several house-wear types and training jerseys.
“The players opted to wash only their jersey top (no other stuff) because when the first set of body-wear was sent to the laundry people at the hotel, it returned with some FIFA and NFF badges at the front and names at the back peeled by the machine.”