How Nigerian athletes ‘shelved’ action at World Championships to cheer Super Falcons
• We can identify problems thwarting the growth of sports, says Okorie
To show support for their compatriots, some athletes and officials representing Nigeria at the ongoing World Athletics Championships in Oregon, United States, had to ‘shelve’ track and field activities on Monday evening to cheer the Super Falcons in their semifinal tie against the host, Morocco, at the African Women’s Nations Cup.
Although the Super Falcons lost the game 4-5 on penalties to Morocco, the Performance Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Victor Okorie, told The Guardian that it was heartwarming to see that Nigeria is featuring in two big sporting events simultaneously.
“We know that some Nigerians stay awake to cheer our athletes competing in the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, U.S., and we had to reciprocate,” Okorie stated.
“There are some athletes and officials in our camp here in Oregon, who also follow what is happening on the football field at the Women’s African Cup of Nations in Morocco. After our morning session on Monday, where three of our athletes qualified for the semifinal in the women’s 200m events, some of us decided to retire into our room to cheer the Super Falcons in their game against Morocco. That is the spirit in sports.”
Okorie said Nigerian youths have demonstrated that with the right people in charge of sports, “it is not difficult to identify the problem thwarting the growth of sports in the country.
“Unfortunately, we have too many mediocre performers in our sports administration and if this situation continues unabated, we will continue to breed underachievement.”
The Super Falcons had two key players, Halimat Ayide and Rasheedat Ajibade, sent off in the game against Morocco on Monday night, but managed to hold on to 1-1 draw in full and extra time before going down in the penalty shootout, a performance Okorie described as commendable.
The U.S.-based Okorie, a 400m hurdles silver medallist at COJA 2003 All Africa Games, is, however, worried, that Nigerian sports are administered by people, who have little to offer, particularly in the area of discovering and nurturing young athletes and players.
“Nigerians always play politics in sports, especially when it comes to picking people for the administration of sports. There are people from some parts of Nigeria who always dominate the administration of sports in the country. One wonders what contributions they can make to our sports development. Why not allow those who discovered and nurtured the athletes to administer them?”