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2022 – Feasting on hope for Nigerian sports

By Segun Odegbami
01 January 2022   |   2:48 am
As we wake up to the miracle of dawn on a new day in a new year along the endless passage of time, Nigerians must deliberately choose, for the sake of their sanity, to hope for a new direction for Nigerian sports.

athletes. Photo: pexels

The eve of this New Year has been a long and dark night.

As we wake up to the miracle of dawn on a new day in a new year along the endless passage of time, Nigerians must deliberately choose, for the sake of their sanity, to hope for a new direction for Nigerian sports.

The season of crisis and under-development has been too long and too painful, with lost opportunities as ‘medals’ for all the gifts bestowed on Nigeria in lavish abundance by nature and the environment.

Nigeria should be, in 2021, one of the world’s superpowers in sports, not the perpetual groper in the dark of unachieved potential, not a country furtively searching for what it has but allowing to go to waste in the vast oceans of opportunities.

Having fallen to the ground there is nowhere else to go but northwards, rising to build up fresh momentum and optimism to replace the gloom thrown over the whole world, like a blanket at bedtime, in the past 2 years. The pandemic of the Coronavirus broke out of the confined laboratories of human mis-experimentation and humbled humanity. In the face of a small virus, a man lies prostrate till now, reminded of his limited understanding of pure knowledge, as he wanders in the wilderness of an uncertain tomorrow.

So, we wake up to 2022 and feast, drinking lavishly from the fountain of hope.

I hope that the wind of common sense will start to blow over Nigerian sports.

I hope that the country shall tread through well-tested paths, of honesty, decency, common good, hard work, morality, good conduct, justice, fair play, and love of one another.

I hope that the National Sports Commission, NSC, will be brought back to take its rightful place in a new architecture for Nigerian sports, serving as the compass for sports development for elite athletes and at elite levels in the country.

I hope that the National Institute for Sports, NIS, will be revived to serve its proper role as the intellectual think-tank and research centre for sports development in Nigeria, equipped with qualified professionals and the latest in science and technology, it will build the capacities of games masters, coaches, and all other relevant administrators to enable them to impact athletes to the highest levels. The institute shall also be a human laboratory, using elite athletes as guinea pigs. It is a critical part of the engine of elite athletes and sports development.

I hope that all the States will pay new attention to their State Sports Councils; to revive and re-orientate them with a fresh understanding of their place and role in the national sports development architecture as the main drivers of authentic grassroots sports development by working and collaborating with school sports. They shall be the source of fresh athletes for all sports and shall present the best of them as possible candidates for elite sports development and deployment at the national level, inexhaustibly feeding the production rooms of the NSC and the NIS.

And beyond that, for the States to make sport a pastime for all the citizens, young and old, for health, well-being, environment, social engagement and social integration purposes within the country’s grand national development strategy.

I hope that each Local Government Area will understand its role to support the State’s strategic sports development policy and programmes; to focus on the communities through the provision of public parks, sports grounds, recreational centres, sports events, incentives in form of scholarships, skills acquisition, entrepreneurship training, and academic concessions to engage the minds and bodies of young boys and girls in constructive and integrative activities.

I hope that the States sports associations will embrace their true independence by concentrating on taking care of the affairs of their members (clubs, schools and any other sports bodies affiliated to them), by organising and supervising competitions and other development projects amongst them. The national sports federations will do the same thing at the national level, exclusively taking care of their members, constituencies and competitions, including some international programmes involving their members only!

I hope that a good understanding of the relationship that should exist between the national sports federations and the National Sports Commission is fashioned out and clearly defined with responsibilities and limitations of each also well established to avoid conflict in what should be a seamless, collaborative sports administrative structure.

I hope that the National Olympic Committee, NOC, made up of members of the different national federations, will provide the leadership to guide the affairs of their member-national federations as well as the National Sports Commission for international programmes and competitions that they undertake on behalf of the international organizations to which they belong – organizers of the Olympic Games, the All-Africa Games and the Commonwealth Games.

I hope that private sports academies, a very important new arm of grassroots athletes’ development, will organize themselves properly, set up their own national body, and get affiliated to the NSC, or the School’s Sports Federation, or any of the relevant National sports federations so that their activities are connected to the national grid of sports development and are accorded the recognition they deserve within the national sports development structure.

I hope that the Ministry of Sports will become wiser, and act wiser in managing and relating with all other arms and levels of sports development, and assume its primary role of providing policies, direction and supervision over the totality of sports in the country without being seen and accused of interference in their internal affairs.

I hope that each tier of government, Local, State and Federal, will embrace their statutory roles as primary developers of sports and athletes in the country, and get the governments to make adequate provision for funds and basic infrastructure for their part in sports development outside of professional sport.

I hope that Nigeria’s national sports federations will bring to an end the mental enslavement of their own coaches by hiring foreign coaches for the national sports teams. They must support indigenous coaches to build their capacities.

I hope that a new Nigeria Football Federation FA shall emerge in 2022 from the debris of previous experiences to shepherd the Country’s football, and take the game on a new trajectory by advancing its technical, diplomatic, administrative and business sides to the highest levels both domestically and internationally.

I hope that the Super Eagles, under the tutelage of a deserving Nigerian, will do so well at the African Cup of Nations this January in Cameroon that never again would any Nigerian football administrator dare, or develop the guts, to sell Nigerians the well worn-out yarn that Nigerian ex-internationals with qualifications and experiences at the highest levels, are not good enough to manage their own national football teams.

Into 2022, I am feasting on these hopes!

I wish all Nigerians a terrific New Year.