Nigeria’s inability to properly kit 60 athletes across 10 sports for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics prevented Africa’s most populated nation from tapping into the over $50 million worth of kits sponsorship deals.
Nigeria found itself in an embarrassing but avoidable situation after Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, who made the Shot-Put athletics, shared a video of himself washing his jersey for the next outing, time that could have been spent preparing for the competition itself.
Enekwechi was probably one of many affected Nigerian athletes at the Olympics who bore the brunt of infighting between the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and Ministry of Sports.
The Ministry of Sports turned down the Puma Kits deal secured by a faction of the AFN over what it termed as a contravention of the Sports Federation Code.
The AFN under the leadership of Shehu Gusau had agreed a $2.76 million (about N1.2bn) deal with Puma on July 24, 2019, in Doha, Qatar, but the alleged contentious deal is one of the major causes of the crisis rocking the agency.
It had split the athletics body into two factions, with both Gusau and his vice president, Sunday Adeleye, accused of side-lining other members of the board during the signing of the deal.
Nigeria’s Ministry of Youth and Sports Development led by Sunday Dare refused Team Nigeria from using Puma kits at the Olympics, insisting the signing of the deal contravened Article 4.4.2 of the National Sports Federations Code of Governance 2017.
The ministry in a statement insists that before Team Nigeria’s athletes are allowed to wear any foreign brand, however, it must sight and be privy to any agreement signed.
“It is common knowledge that the former AFN president, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, with his co-travellers, is desperate to extricate himself from a contract that he controversially signed the AFN into, which has now placed him in a position of trying to blackmail Team Nigeria into wearing the kits,” Dare said in a statement.
He explained how “Ibrahim Gusau has conveniently neglected to tell Nigerians that he and Sunday Adeleye signed a non-disclosure agreement with Puma, with the details unknown to the Ministry and board members of the AFN.
“The minister and the ministry will not commit the Nigerian government and Nigerian athletes to a deal in which the ministry has not sighted the contractual documents that ties Nigerian athletes to a five-year contract with Puma,” the sports minister.
What is at stake with Puma’s deal?
A significant section of the deal stated that Puma will supply kits to all age categories of Nigeria’s athletics team for four years.
The contract also includes monetary rewards for Nigerian athletes who wear the sportswear during medal presentations at the Olympics games — with gold medallists earning $15,000, silver medallists getting $5,000, and a bronze medal attracting $3,000.
The German sportswear manufacturing company, Puma, announced the termination of their kits contract with the AFN, citing “recent developments at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”
In a statement signed by Manuel Edlheimb, Puma’s director, the merchandise company said it ended its sponsoring agreement and had further “discharged from any or all obligations towards all stakeholders involved and reserves all rights against these entities and individuals.”
Jersey embarrassment at Olympics
Although the Department of State Services (DSS) cleared Shehu-Gusau and his vice president Sunday Adeleye of any criminality, Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo unveiled a Lagos-based AFA Sports, a Nigerian clothing manufacturer, as the official kit supplier for Team Nigeria few days before departure.
While contingents from other countries including South Africa who arrived in Japan at the same time as Nigeria were uniformly kitted, several viral videos and pictures showed many Nigerian officials were wearing different attires and sportswear brands.
A picture shared by the team after the visit of the Nigerian ambassador to Japan, Abubakar Moriki, to the team’s camp, showed many of the athletes and officials wore different attires, with one of the officials in the picture wearing an Arsenal jersey.
Many other videos shared by Nigerian athletes in Japan also showed them in different sportswear like Nike and Adidas.
Former president of the AFN, Dan Ngerem, says Nigeria risks being blacklisted by major international sportswear manufacturers over the impasse.
“I advised them to handle the Puma deal with care because you cannot embarrass an international brand like Puma and think you can run to another tomorrow,” Ngerem states.
How other countries were kitted
Although the exact valuation of the deal is still unknown, other countries had structured plans on how to properly kit their athletes during the Olympics.
Designed by Tokyo 2020 sponsor Aoki, the Japanese Olympians and Paralympians wore official uniforms at the opening ceremony that paid tribute to the outfits their team wore at the first Tokyo Games in 1964.
Team Great Britain’s outfit was designed by Ben Sherman, a British clothing brand selling shirts, sweaters, suits, outerwear, shoes and accessories predominantly for men.
In South Africa, Durban Fashion Fair commissioned young artists – Mbali Zulu, Nompumelelo Mjadu, Sandile Sikhakhane and Sipho Lushaba to design uniforms for Team South Africa in partnership with manufacturer Mr. Price Sport.
The green and gold Olympic uniform was made by Asics Australia, designed by Olympic super featherweight boxer and indigenous artist Paul Fleming. His designs for Team Australia included shirts with a Japanese origami design detailed with 52 pairs of footsteps, representing the country’s indigenous Olympians to date.
Giorgio Armani, who has designed uniforms for the national team since London 2012, again dressed Team Italia for the Tokyo Games. The outfit featured the Italian flag in a circular shape on the front of the jacket and shirt.