A former Nigerian athlete, Abbas Abubakar Abbas has revealed the chain of events and factors that made him switch allegiance to Bahrain, where he says he has since found satisfaction and a solid structure that cares adequately for his welfare needs, megasportsarena.com reports.
Abbas was just 16 years old when he was scouted to swap allegiances from Nigeria, the country of his birth, and now 24 that highly-promising quartermiler, who won bronze at last year’s IAAF World Athletics Championship in the mixed relay, says his decision has paid off very handsomely.
He is one of four Nigeria-born sprinters that Bahrain recruited on unique security force schemes and are they all now targeting 4x400m mixed relay gold at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, ahead of which Abbas stressed that he has no regrets about his swap.
He will compete alongside Orukpe Erayokan, who was also in high demand back in 2012, despite being beaten at Nigeria’s National Sports Festival by Abbas, who is now attempting to keep his career on track in the United Kingdom under the banner of Bahrain, after competing for Nigeria at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Unlike Erayokan, Abbas and his family talked to the officials from Bahrain after competing at the festival which is Nigeria’s premier athletics meet, ahead of which father was persuaded that a prodigious talent like his son’s would be wasted in West Africa as he was given a brand new pair of running spikes and told about the kind of life awaiting for him in Bahrain.
Abbas, who was Nigeria’s former national 400m champion, told BBC Sport Africa: “My father asked, ‘what about his career after sport?’ They said ‘Don’t worry, he will never regret it. When you finish running you can say, ‘I’m ready to go to the army.’
“Most of the athletes from other countries here have two salaries. You have a choice: some are army; some are police. Most athletes are youths when they come to Bahrain. If you are running good you can make a lot of money from the federation. Even if you don’t, the money will be enough to take care of you, your family, even some people you know
“The official for Bahrain came to my coach, but I didn’t have a phone at the time, so I didn’t know anything about it until a year later. Sometimes I cry, because I know – I wish – I would have followed. In Nigeria, I often struggled to pay for the restroom after training.
“In Nigeria we have many talents but we don’t know how to handle them. Of all the athletes I used to run with, I only know one in Nigeria who is still in the sport [Orukpe Erayokan]. The difference in Bahrain is the support.”