Funding threatens Nigeria’s participation in World Cup, Commonwealth Games
Stakeholders in the Nigerian sports’ sector have raised the alarm over what they described as the country’s poor preparations for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and FIBA Women World Cup in 2018 as well as the FIFA World Cup scheduled to hold in Russia also next year.
The Commonwealth Games will hold in Gold Coast, Australia in April, while the World Cup will kick off in Russia in June next year.
Experts believe that for an athlete to win a medal at such competitions and the Olympics, he must have been preparing for at least four years before the event. Within that period, the athlete is expected to compete in various international meets, where he tests his ability against other world-class stars, apart from going for qualifiers that are specified.
For the FIFA World Cup, serious preparations don’t start until after the end of the football season leading to the competition, but the country’s federation is expected to put all logistics together, well ahead of the arrival of the team, for the buildup to the competition.
Recently, the Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, came under severe attack for asking the National Assembly to help the ministry get enough funds for the country’s preparation and participation in next year’s Commonwealth Games and the World Cup. To some stakeholders, the minister’s plea was a tad too late as the Commonwealth competition is just around the corner, while others berated Dalung for asking for funds for a World Cup for which the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has already qualified for a $2 million training grant from FIFA following the Super Eagles qualification for the competition.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives held a public hearing on the NFF bill, the status of the National Sports Commission and funding for 2018 competitions. The move, according to some stakeholders, is rather too late, as any money from the exercise cannot be accessed by the sector until the national budget is passed and money appropriated to the Sports Ministry next year.
Sometimes, funds from the national budget do not get to the end users until late into the year, thereby rendering it useless for the purposes it was supposed to serve.
Reacting to the country’s seeming inability to begin preparation for the Commonwealth Games, sports analyst, Sabinus Ikewuaku, recalled that after the London 2012 Olympic Games, where Nigeria failed to win a single medal, the government organised a summit where it agreed with the experts that the country needed another source of funding to achieve its potential in sports.
“From that summit came an arrangement in which the office of the then coordinating Minister of the Economy ensured that the Sports Ministry had funds for all its programmes outside the national budget.
“Unfortunately, that arrangement was discarded when the current administration came to power. Thus, Nigeria returned to the old path at the 2016 Olympic Games when some of the federations could not even attend qualifiers and therefore did not participate in the global festival.”
Recently, some football analysts canvassed that the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, ignore any attempt by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to get any money from the Federal Government for the World Cup.
Their argument is based on the notion that since the NFF would be getting a huge sum of $12.5 million (over N4.5 billion) from FIFA, there is no need for the presidency to ‘waste’ more resources on Super Eagles’ preparation and participation in the World Cup. They want the NFF to approach financial institutions in the country, where it can borrow money for the team’s preparation and pay back soon as it receives its share from FIFA.
To the former Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission, Chief Patrick Ekeji, the criticism of Dalung is borne out of lack of understanding of how the system works. Ekeji said Nigeria would do better in international sports if the funds were released to the federations on time.
“For instance, if you get money two months before a championship when you were supposed to have started preparation a year ago, it will be difficult to develop your strategy.
“The money is even released at government’s own time, and when you do that, the beneficiaries cannot apply it in an accountable manner.”
Ekeji dismissed the excuse that corruption accounts for government’s reluctance to release funds to the federations. “I am not bothered about corruption, if you have the laws, and government applies the laws the way they should be applied, the culprits will go to jail if found guilty. If you don’t punish those that are supposed to be punished, it will not stop.”
He recalled that four years ago, the NFF got $8 million from FIFA as its share for Super Eagles’ qualification for Brazil 2014 World Cup. “The money, in a way, created a problem which snowballed into a crisis that led to Nigeria’s second round exit from the World Cup. There was a faceoff between the players and NFF, as they demanded $2million from the football house as their share midway into the World Cup in Brazil.”
Ekeji further explained: “The players initially protested and threatened to down tools in Sao Paulo before they departed for Curitiba where they played Iran in Nigeria’s first game at the World Cup, if their demands were not met. It took the intervention of the then Senate president, David Mark before a temporary peace deal was brokered.
“The settlement lasted for just a few days, as the Eagles boycotted training for two days and threatened not to play the second round game against France if the allowance from the FIFA largesse was not paid.
“As at the time of the World Cup, FIFA had not paid the money but the players held Nigeria to the jugular before former President Goodluck Jonathan fell to their blackmail and, through the then Sports Minister, Tammy Danagogo, sent over $3 million cash in a chartered aircraft to to the team in Brazil.
“Unfortunately, the team concentrated more in sharing the money than the match at hand. The sharing was on till 4:00 a.m. on the same day they had a 5:00 p.m. match against France. They lost 2 – 0 at the Estardo Nacional in Brasilia to exit the World Cup.”
Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF) President, Musa Kida, said it had become necessary for the Federal Government to find an alternative system of funding sports to help the sector function effectively.
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