Nigerian row erupts over who took Japanese donor’s Olympic cash gift

August 23 – Nigerian football has been plunged into fresh controversy – and this time after celebrating a bronze medal in the Olympic men’s football tournament.

A spat has broken out over who should be the beneficiary of a gift donated by a previously unknown Japanese benefactor for the feat in Brazil.

The donation, totalling $390,000, came from Katsuya Takasu, a plastic surgeon and football enthusiast. Takasu reportedly informed the Nigerian government through its embassy in Tokyo that he intended to make the donation, adding that he would be flying to Brazil to personally hand over the funds and also watch Nigeria’s clash with Honduras played last Saturday. Nigeria won 3-2 to take the bronze, 20 years after defeating Argentina to clinch gold in Atlanta.

Takasu apparently mandated that $200,000 should go to the team to “cover bonuses and allowances” and $10,000 to all members of the 18-man squad as well as the team manager for winning bronze.  But African reports suggest Nigerian FA officials had ‘hijacked’ the process and demanded that Takasu must hand the money to them for onward disbursement to team members.

The NFF immediately denied the allegations, saying it took over the process because it wanted the funds to be routed through appropriate channels. “The NFF has not collected any money from Japanese plastic surgeon, Dr. Katsuya Takasu,,” the NFF said in a post on its Twitter account.

Amaju Pinnick, the NFF president, said that it was inappropriate to allow an individual make donations directly to individual team members.

“Nigeria is a sovereign nation and such a donation must go through a process,” Pinnick said. “To say NFF has ‘hijacked’ the money is outright mischief.”

Takasu said he made the donation after hearing about Nigeria’s haphazard planning and financial crisis which at one point kept the squad stranded in Atlanta because their onward  flight to Brazil had not been paid for. Then, hours before the quarterfinal against Denmark, Nigeria’s players threatened to boycott the game in protest over unpaid allowances. “I read about the financial problems affecting the team and I felt the need to make a big contribution,” Takasu told the BBC.

Coach Samson Siasia, who became the most decorated African football coach at the Olympics having won a silver medal in Beijing in 2008, thanked Takasu for his generosity.

“We can’t thank Dr. Takasu enough because what he has done is amazing and unbelievable, we didn’t see this coming when we set out for the Olympics” Siasia told BBC Sport. “It’s not just about the money. You can’t equate his gesture in figures or words, to find a big supporter far away in Japan travel down here to cheer and back us is unbelievable.”

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