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Many sportsmen, women have undiagnosed mental health issues, says Adelabu

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Former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu, has disclosed that many sportsmen and women have undiagnosed psychological or mental health issues.

Adelabu, a sports scientist, stated that the life of sportsmen and women is moulded through their responses to the pressures of victory and defeat or success and failure.

“That is one of the reasons why sportsmen and women tend to seek for balance through drugs, alcohol, sex etc. and thereby eventually living like that to cope with challenges of life,” he told The Guardian.

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“Who we are on the field is different from who we are when we are alone, when the voices and yelling of the crowd are gone and we now try to hear ourselves to know which way to go or what to do with the inner crowd within us.

“Our government has no idea of the degree of damage done to the psyche of the sportsmen, women and the youths in general, as a result of the unhealthy political appointment of people, who understand nothing about sport to run the sport in the country. It is the most unpatriotic move any government can make due to lack of sensitivity to national development through the instrument of sport,” he stated.

Adelabu, who played for the IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan in his active days, added: “In fact, sports participation at both the local and professional levels is an opportunity cost, which separates us from other disciplines such that after retirement, you may become useless to yourself.

“Some of us have observed this lacuna from the inception of our careers and are prepared to correct it, but the government is not listening to our cry that sports administration at the apex level should not be used as compensation for politicians. Give people roles to play in the areas of their discipline,” he said.

Continuing, Adelabu, a former manager of Eko United FC said: “I read the interview by Lawrence Akwuegbu on how he turned down the invitation by Austria national team, but instead played for Nigeria. Nearly every national hero or heroine in the field of sport in Nigeria has one form of regret or another.

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“I met a lot of female footballers who had injuries and were just walking the streets of Lagos because their clubs could not support them. The good thing is that we served our country to the best of our abilities.

“As a sports Scientist, I was one of the people who opposed female football in Nigeria because I knew what I went through with my academics and injury. There were things that happened in our sports industry that are not palatable for human consumption. Divulging everything on the pages of the newspaper will be tantamount to destroying what we used our blood, life and sweat to build; after all, some athletes died while serving the nation without any compensation. I have not seen any athlete being paid insurance compensation – were we not insured for our competitions?

“The problem is not with the sport, but the lack of responsible and professional administrators who have what it takes to manage athletes’ lives in sport. What the majority of our sports administrators need to understand is the grave difference between life in sport and sporting life.

“Sporting life is the ability to engage in sport as long as your body can carry you, but life in sport is very transient; If you don’t leave the sport, the sport will leave you; either through injury, expiration of the contract, the decline in performance or psychological, mental health or emotional problem which people around you; including the family may not be able to diagnose or render any help. This is the period in our lives when we become our own spectator.

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“I have seen situations where the president of a nation responded to a letter written by a secondary school student. Recently a 10-year-old boy wrote a letter to the Liverpool football coach and the boy was nationally celebrated on the TV because the government respects her citizens irrespective of tribe or age. What is wrong with us in Nigeria? I sent a comprehensive write up published by The Guardian Newspaper on “Investing In Change Through Sport” to our former sports minister through courier, his office never acknowledged it.

“What else do you want us to do with our education and service to the nation when you compensate some political touts with such an exalted office that they know nothing about,” he stated.

Adelabu said the level of decadence in Nigeria’s sports administration is “so outrageous that even players have to bribe to be invited to the national team and when this allegation is made, even the government is silent about it because we are used to it.

“How can a public officer indicted for fraud be allowed to stay in office because they have godfathers in politics. Nothing good can come out of such administration. A lot of talented individuals have been left out of our national teams because of corruption. My point is there are several people who served this nation meritoriously in sport but wasting away because of lack of foresight by the government on how to manage these specialized group of people.”

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Narrating his experience as a Post Graduate student playing for the Shooting Stars FC of Ibadan, Adelabu said it was impossible for one to get a ticket for a match by 12.00 p.m. as the kit was then usually, which is a far cry from what obtains today.

“Currently, a lot of matches are played without gate takings…how did we get to this stage? Most of our administrators can die for clubs in the premiership; why can’t they do our own like that? What are they doing in the office? Who put them there? Do we have a government who understands accountability and not just paying lip service? How long are we going to fight corruption? Let us arrest it by putting the square peg in the square hole.

“I have suggested to President Buhari’s administration to set up ‘Presidential Council For Sport’ that will engage in cleaning up the mess in our sports administration and also establish various platforms that will accommodate the needs of both the serving and retired sportsmen and women. The PCS will provide employment opportunities for all the retired sportsmen and women and other things, which I already mentioned at the sports reform forum. It is only in this country that we run sport at a loss.

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“The Ministry of Youths and Sport may be doing her best, but not enough to address the issues in sport in all its ramifications. The activities of the PCS will only compliment what is on the ground. I need someone to listen before the damage becomes irreversible on the potentials of our youths,” he said.

Adelabu argued there was the need to stop the international embarrassment that has characterised the attitude of Nigerian sportsmen and officials to various crimes in sport through specialized training in strategic management in sport and capacity building in challenging times.

“To develop our sport, we have to renew our knowledge about a lot of issues. I cannot imagine the extent of the disconnections between our educational institutions, Sports Council, Sports Commission and Sports Federations. By now, we ought to have produced our own well-groomed indigenous coaches without any tribal biases.

“How ridiculous is it for our foreign coach to spend his holiday abroad and never watched our local leagues, yet wants to build our national team. How can any government accept that? You cannot build the fortune of a nation in sport on participation in competitions alone. We need both cognitive and technical development through the support of our tertiary institutions.

“I have advocated for our own organised transitional programme based on our needs for any ex-international, who wants to go into sports management or coaching. You cannot take the Nigerian coaching certificate to work in the UK. Why should anyone come here with an online coaching programme and handle our national team. This has to change.”

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