By Emmanuel Afonne
Nigerian national para-badminton coordinator Sam Ekeoma called on the federal government to immortalize Abdulrafiu Bello, the Nigerian and African para-badminton champion who died in a car accident on Wednesday.
NAN reports that Kwara Badminton Association coach Bello died on his return from Lagos after a visa application visit to the Spanish Embassy for the final qualifying round for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
Bello, a representative of Africa and athletes on the board of directors of the World Para-Badminton Federation (WPF), was due to travel to Spain on May 6, for the final qualifying leg for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games .
Ekeoma noted that Bello’s death dealt a heavy blow to the country’s quest to choose one of the slots for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
He said, however, that things could still change if the government can honor him by sponsoring other players.
“Bello paid the ultimate price for the development of para-badminton in Nigeria and Africa, and his wife is pregnant after he got married last year.
“We call on the federal government to regard Bello’s sacrifice as what it has done for the country and to ensure that Nigerian para-badminton qualifies for Tokyo 2020; this is exactly Bello’s dream and expectation, ”he said.
According to him, Bello will be happy in the land of the dead to see Nigeria at the Paralympics including the Spanish championship scheduled for May 6.
“I know Nigeria will qualify if we attend this championship and the government should not fail to sponsor our players as a mark of honor for Bello.
“And I say that because Bello has trained very strong players who will succeed him, even in his own category.
And one of them should accompany us to Spain if the government can provide sponsorship, ”Ekeoma said.
According to him, it is painful that the country lost Bello when the goal and the dream is to make para-badminton part of the Tokyo Games, coming from Nigeria.
“Bello’s death is like a movie to me because we were together at the National Sports Festival which just ended in Edo, strategizing on how to embark on our trip to Spain for the final qualifying round for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“Around noon on Wednesday I spoke with Bello and he told me that he had arrived at the Spanish Embassy to submit his document for next month’s Spanish International Para-Badminton Championship which we were due to attend.
“He first made a joke with me saying he was in serious traffic and had not yet arrived in Lagos,” he said.
He said he told her to get out of the vehicle and walk if possible, so that he could meet at the embassy.
“When I told him that he now said that I shouldn’t worry that he was already inside the Spanish Embassy and as soon as he submitted his documents he reminded me that ‘he had submitted.
“It was yesterday that I heard that Bello died and you know how far we’ve come in para-badminton and Bello is the key to our strength,” Ekeoma said.
“I received a call on Wednesday from the Sports Ministry to discuss Bello’s trip to Spain for qualifying, without knowing that he is already dead.
“And he had this accident in the same area, he told me jokingly that there was traffic when he was going to Lagos from Ilorin, to keep the appointment for the visa interview at the Spanish Embassy, ”he said. (NOPE)
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