Al-Farouq Aminu became Nigeria’s biggest absence at the Rio Olympics, but there is hope of his return for this summer’s FIBA AfroBasket.
A key member of the D’Tigers over the past five years, Aminu was set to make his second straight Olympics appearance in Rio.
However, a week before the Games, the Portland Trail Blazers forward announced that he would be missing the Olympics because an insurance that would protect him if he got hurt wasn’t in place in time.
Even playing without the 26-year-old in Rio, Nigeria’s 90-76 win over Croatia made some noise across social media platforms.
Eventually, Nigeria returned home with a 1-4 record following Group Phase defeats to Brazil, Spain, Argentina and Lithuania.
With this year’s African championship taking place in August in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, some of the most frequently asked questions are ‘who is prepared to feature for Nigeria’ and ‘Will Aminu make his comeback’?
In an interview with FIBA.com, Aminu expressed his disappointment for giving Rio a miss, but he left the door open for Brazzaville.
“The Olympics is the pinnacle of everything,” he said. “The way guys are being treated, it’s disappointing. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Hopefully, this whole situation raises awareness.
“I love playing for Nigeria. I love playing with my brother (Alade Aminu), with my teammates. It’s like a brotherhood. We keep in touch to this very moment.”
Nigeria beat Angola at the FIBA AfroBasket final in August 2015 with Aminu making it to the All-Tournament team.
Having Nigeria previously experienced organisational issues, Aminu and the rest of the team hoped for a better preparation for Rio.
“It didn’t bother me at the time. After a while, it just became outrageous because it wasn’t anything to do with money… obviously, that’s sometimes the issue. It’s just pure organisation,” he explained.
“This time we knew we were going to the Olympics a year in advance. But they didn’t get prepared for the Olympics. And the fact that they didn’t, it doesn’t make sense to all of our players – to put our bodies on the line… Another guy got hurt, it has pushed him back in his career. Two other guys got hurt when they were in the Olympics and two or three players had to retire after London [Games].”
Asked to elaborate how to improve the team’s management, Aminu replied, “I have gone to meetings. I just don’t know if this is necessarily something they are fully-grasp. I have tried the hardest.
“First class ticket is not what we are asking for. We just want some organisation and let us know our schedules throughout the year because we are starting families now. When we first started some of the guys didn’t have a family.”
So far, Nigeria – by virtue of winning the last African Championship – and hosts the Republic of Congo are the only teams qualified for the FIBA AfroBasket 2017. The qualifiers are expected to begin in March.