@58: Nigeria’s sports still in coma

Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung

Hope has continued to fade away due to the approach Sports Administrators implore to administer sports generally in Nigeria. Year after year, many have been imagining why and how a country with mostly young people, forming bulk of its population has not found any meaningful solution to the dwindling state of sporting architecture – facilities, Manpower, policy initiative and implementation, funding, environmental difference among others.

And as Africa’s most populated Nation with about 200 million People marked its 58 years since independence, there have been concerns on varying issues militating against expected growth of Nigerian Sports.

 

Plight of Nigerian Athletes

Athletes (active and retired), Coaches, Referees, Administrators and indeed other Stakeholders have been throwing blames at each other. Though opinion vary, but aggregate views pointed that impeded development of Nigeria is as a result of decision and steps taking by authorities concerned.

No doubt, Nigeria and Nigerians have made indelible exploits in various international competitions in the past. However, no meaningful structure to sustain them at the elite level.

Historically, in football for example, Nigeria’s senior Men team, Super Eagles have never made any enduring impact at the world’s most fancied soccer tournament – FIFA World Cup. The reason many believe is simple – no sustained effort geared towards solidifying football artistry, domestically. Our footballers (past and present), have been turned to ‘mere commodity’ for steady export to too many non-football (unserious) playing Nations including Haiti, Tahiti, Benin Republic, Qatar, Eritrea, among others.

These players have been turned to money-making machine by Administrators who actually prefer to ply their trade as Agents instead of sit down, make concrete plans and proceed on sound implementable actions that would supposedly move Nigerian football forward. Sadly, these footballers end up in oblivion.

At different leagues in Nigeria, points are allocated to clubs from the start of each season, meaning – Winners of the leagues, be it Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Nigeria National League (NNL) and Nigeria Nation-wide League (NNWL) are determined right from blast whistle at start of every soccer term.

Up till now, Players are allegedly imposed on National Coaches including the Technical Adviser of Super Eagles – a white man? You could ask. Yes, some clicks also have his remote. Haven’t you wondered why the country performed woefully at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with arrays of talents which abound in Nigeria? Yet our best performance has remained round of 16 or knock-out stage. The Nigerian team couldn’t go past group level in Russia. Shame!

Not only in football, other federations have their crooked ways of appointing or selecting Athletes to feature at international events. Not too long ago, a prominent board member of one of high ranking sporting federations hinted me that before the emergence of current federations’ leadership, the matter of which Athlete features for Nigeria, outside is subjected to who he or she knows. In fact, they are handpicked at will, by either federation’s President or any other influential board member. Competence, like in any other Nigeria’s way of doing things is thrown and buried in the mud.

Some of these federations enjoy international grants but could hardly account for them. Instead of using them for the purposes they are meant, they are diverted for selfish gains. Those federations that can’t access funds, internationally, are subjected to untold hardship by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. I’m aware that in the past one year or so, no federation seem to have accessed its annual money from the government. They are subjected to sourcing funds among themselves, should they fail to track down any sponsor. Our Administrators’ attitude to leadership – from Minister, Permanent Secretary, Directors, Federation President and Secretaries, Board members must change if meaning development stride can be guaranteed for Nigeria’s Sports. These ‘Musketeers must always think of Athletes, Coaches’ welfare first before any other person or thing. Already, they have relegated the media and publicity aspect of the system to nothing.

 

Dearth of facilities

From Athletes welfare, let’s delve into facilities. Sporting facilities in Nigeria have become an endless talking point. Administratively, no one cares to know how and where Athletes train. How and which method should be implored in discovering hidden talents at hinterlands.

All they mostly care about is to poach Athletes – be he or she confirmed Nigerian or not, to represent the country at international events. Yet, our participation at Olympic Games has been turned to ordinary appearance. 2016 Olympic ended, two years ago, but for Individual effort (here and there), no government structure is seriously in place to prepare Elite Athletes for podium dance.

A visit to all the National sporting facilities – football stadia inclusive, exposes Nigeria’s leap service to sports development. Only recently, one of the country’s pitches in Kaduna was inspected for the reason of hosting upcoming Nations Cup qualifier between Super Eagles and their Libya, it couldn’t pass the test of hosting such Game. Now, the encounter has been moved to a state facility in Uyo, Akwa Ibom.

Poor maintenance culture has dealt so many blows on Africa’s most populous Nation. Every year, budget components accommodate certain huge amount, meant for repair or one form of maintenance and another. At the end of every fiscal year, virtually nothing would be visible for any to see or use. Abuja and Lagos National stadia (the supposed largest sporting complex) have become a ghost of themselves. Bush grow freely, power supply has been a thing of the past just as decay has crippled installed sporting equipment.

Some two months ago, the Cycling Federation of Nigeria (CFN) cried out bitterly concerning how cooking stoves were dumped inside the Velodrome within Abuja National stadium since the past four years. These cooking wares were meant for political campaigns during 2014 electioneering period and had nothing to do with any sporting activity. Now the federation can’t use the space for training or competition.

This same facility (elegantly constructed), successfully hosted 2003 then All Africa Games upon completion same era. Almost every part of the stadium has been left to wrought away.

And so it’s not enough to recount when sporting activity began taking place in Nigeria, it’s rather much profitable if authorities would ensure improved status of one of most revered industries, globally. Until then, sports business will continue to crumble on us all. When last did you get to know how much was budgeted and released for the entire sporting fraternity in Nigeria? It’s always a laughable stock, too small to even service a government or agency, perhaps aside their salaries.

 

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