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Mikel Obi and his Nigeria team-mates will face Japan in Manaus on Friday – if their charter firm gets its flight bill paid.

Unpaid flight bill grounds Nigeria’s Olympic footballers in Atlanta

Nigeria’s Olympic footballers are cutting it fine with their arrival in Rio de Janeiro with their flight expected to touch down in Brazil less than 36 hours before their opening match of the men’s football tournament.

Samson Siasia’s squad are stuck in Atlanta with the charter airline hired to fly them on the last leg of their journey refusing to leave until they have been paid.

Nigeria are due to face Japan on Friday (at 1am GMT) in Manaus but a “logistical mix-up” is posing a threat to their plans.

“The Nigerian government [sports ministry] is responsible for booking the tickets for the team to travel but we heard there is a logistical mix-up with payments,” a source close to the Nigeria Football Federation told the BBC.

“The money paid by the ministry for the charter flight did not hit airline’s account on Tuesday so they refused to fly the team to Brazil.”

The hitch in the transfer of funds is being blamed on currency conversions via various bank accounts.“It is a cumbersome exercise but they should have started the process much earlier, which NFF was pointing out. This issue has nothing to do with the NFF,” the source explained.

Inside the squad, the picture is not clear when they will be leaving. One of the players told the BBC: “We’ve been told to get ready to fly out in few hours but that’s been the story since last week.”

Nigeria are in the same Group B as Sweden, Colombia and Japan and won gold in 1996 – the first team from Africa to claim the Olympic football title – as well as finishing in 2008.

This report was first published in the Guardian.

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