Early Wednesday morning, social media was flooded with photos of the Falconets sleeping on the bare floor and chairs at Istanbul Airport in Turkey.
The players, who boarded Turkish Airlines, were in transit to Istanbul en route to the U-20 World Cup in Costa Rica after being knocked out of the tournament following a 2-0 loss to the Netherlands on Sunday.
Following a flight delay in Colombia, the airline that was to transport them to Abuja had left.
They had to endure a frustrating 24-hour stay at Istanbul airport.
“We thought our flight was for Tuesday, not knowing it was Wednesday,” a team official said. The punch.
“The first ticket we had in Costa Rica said August 23, but when we got to Colombia there was a four-hour delay, so they had to change the ticket. And we had to go through 24 hours of hell at the airport.
The Falconets ordeal has drawn ire from several Nigerians online, with some respondents aiming to question the government and the Nigerian Football Federation about the fate of the Falconets.
African football journalist Osau Obayiuwana tweeted: “Why should a #Nigeria national football team, the #Falconets, have to sleep like tramps at #Istanbul airport in #Turkey for almost 24 hours, for catch a connecting flight to #Nigeria after being knocked out of #U20WWC in #CostaRica, @thenff? WHY??”
Ernest Brown said: ‘No responsible government of a country can allow this to happen to its citizens, speak more of its representatives. I am ashamed to be Nigerian.
Orji Isaac added: “Too bad for this government, with mistreatment they always give it heroes. They are only interested in politics.
“Why does the NFF lack planning? Why do we have to dishonor the nation all the time? Can’t we predict these girls in a hotel? What kind of country is it? asked Remilekun Oluwaremedies.
Toyin Ibitoye, press officer for youth and sports minister Sunday Dare, however, said the minister had contacted the players.
“The minister got in touch with them, talked to them and made sure their stay was as comfortable as possible before they flew to the country,” he said. The punch.
A player told our correspondent he couldn’t take a bath or change his outfit, after airport officials told him he had to pay $18 before he could take a shower.
“It’s the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life,” said the young footballer.
“Airline officials told us they were taking us to a sleeping area, to take us to a waiting area, where we were to spend the night.
“My legs hurt; I had to remove my sneakers for slippers and started walking through the airport. Those who have money paid 18 dollars to have their bath, those who did not have one could not take their bath and change their clothes,” she added.
But the player, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that the airline was providing food to the contingent.
“We were given meal tickets every five hours, but we could only eat chicken and chips.”
NFF general secretary Dr Mohammed Sanusi said in a statement that the federation had attempted to accommodate the team in a hotel in the Turkish capital, after learning that the team would be staying an additional 24 hours in the city.
But a new policy denying Nigerians visas on arrival in Turkey has scuttled their efforts, Sanusi added.
“The NFF has not reserved the tickets for the Costa Rican team; FIFA did. Nor did FIFA consider the hiccups that saw the team delayed for more than three hours in Bogota and another hour in Panama. By the time the team arrived in Istanbul, the flight to Abuja had left,” Sanusi said.
“Our officials advocated for humanitarian transit visas to take players and officials to a hotel inside the city, but this was not possible as they were informed that Nigeria had been withdrawn. from the list of countries whose citizens had received a visa on arrival in Turkey.
“The airline then took the team to a sleeping area at the airport and gave them tickets to eat meals every five hours. This situation has nothing to do with NFF, which had made arrangements to host the team in Abuja before the complications of travel arrangements.
The Falconets finally boarded the six-hour flight to Abuja at 6 p.m. (4 p.m. Nigerian time) on Wednesday and had not landed at the time of this report.
Obayiuwana, however, wondered why the NFF did not know of Yotel, a hotel inside the airport, where they could have accommodated the contingent.
He tweeted with a photo of Yotel: “Didn’t @thenff ‘know’ that there is such a facility at #Istanbul airport, where the #Falconets could have rested, rather than sleeping on the airport floor and chairs for 20 hours? Let’s go…”
AJ Afolabi also added on Twitter: “There are lounges available with much better conditions similar to hotels at this airport. This doesn’t look good at all for NFF. We don’t treat ours with a lot of international relations at all. So sad. There is no excuse for not planning and budgeting for at least unforeseen circumstances. That says a lot about us. »
Yotel is located at Istanbul Airport, one with airside access and the other with landside access. It is located in the main terminal building, on the departures floor (2nd level) located in the transit area (tax free).
Travelers only need an official boarding pass, not visas, to access the facility.
The Falconets’ predicament in Turkey revealed several other difficulties faced by the young players before the tournament and during the tournament itself.
It was learned that ahead of the tournament, the players allegedly bought their sneakers themselves, after kit supplier Nike failed to deliver them.
A team source said: “The players bought their own trainers, I bought mine too. Everyone bought their own. How much are the Nike trainers you can’t buy for the players? ?
“They actually asked players to send in their shoe sizes; everyone sent theirs, only to get us to Abuja and we were told that Nike didn’t come with the shoes. We had other kits but the sneakers were not included.
“So we all went to the market to buy the sneakers. It’s not hidden; people were taking pictures of the players while they were buying the shoes. I had to chase the guy they were buying from. I told him that if he wanted to sell to players, he had to choose an isolated place. I bought two pairs.
While the team received their allowances after leaving the tournament, our source said the players received $500 for their efforts in Costa Rica, adding that they also received additional transportation of N40,000 from Abuja.
She said: “They were promised bonuses if they reached the quarter-finals. That’s what they were betting on. They received normal camp allowances, but it was for a few days.
“At the end of the day, what do they take home? $500. I don’t know if they are going to give them any other money. I learned that they also received 40,000 naira to get to their bases from Abuja by road. I just hope that doesn’t happen.
“These players are the most amazing set of footballers I’ve come across; they don’t talk, they’re so humble, smart and focused on their football. But why will they play and not get paid?