Beyond football, invest in golf, other sports – Elegbeleye tells FG

Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye

Former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye, has called on the federal government to deploy more resources to the development of sports, other than football in Nigeria.

Elegbeleye who was a special guest of honour at the just concluded 13th  Open Championships held at the IBB Golf and Country Golf Club, Abuja said already enabling laws to develop all sports and make them viable are in place, however, all that is needed was to implement them.

The former Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC) recalled how Nigeria went to United States in search of a golf athlete during 2014 African Youth Games.

He said, “We were in Botswana in 2014 for the Africa Youth Games and we had to go and look for a Nigerian young star playing golf in the U. S. But now I’m glad that we don’t need to look further for stars who can represent this country in African championship and I can confidently tell you that from what I watched in the past few days at the IBB junior open championship, those kids are future champions and I’m certain that there are going to be professional golfers amongst them. 

“Also, when it comes to competitive golfing, I’m sure they will represent Nigeria at the world stage, including the Olympics. We must not concentrate on football alone. In Nigeria, football is so popular to the detriment of other lucrative sports which are being ignored.

“We don’t invest in facilities and encourage our young stars to get involved in sports like golf and other so-called ‘lesser sports’. But what is more important in winning medals for instance at the Olympics is the provision of good sporting facilities and so I implore the National Assembly to look at legislation that will encourage and promote other sports.

“Most importantly, getting government to invest in facilities that will promote other sports. Take a look at the last Olympics, we won two individual medals but it’s unfortunate that we concentrate more on team sports in this country.

“We lost all our three group games in basketball and everyone was disappointed, even though we did well during our exhibition games beating the highly-rated U. S. and Argentina. But the truth is I think we let those victories get into our head and forgot that those were mere friendlies. 

“Another major problem we face is Leadership.

“We were in London in 2012 and failed to win even a single medal. In 2016 we went to Rio and won a bronze medal in football. But at the just concluded Tokyo Olympics, we won two individual medals. Unfortunately we didn’t even qualify for both the men and women’s football events.

“Now, from what we saw it is clear that we need to encourage individual sports and athletes to excel and stop concentrating all our efforts on team sports alone. We could have done better in Tokyo but some sports officials kind of sabotaged the team’s preparation.”