The world in crisis, John Mastoroudes ‘returns’, Abeokuta on cusp of history
Before you start wondering about the title of my article today, let me remind all that aside from being a sportsman, I am also an official sports diplomat. So, just relax and go with the flow.
It is Thursday morning.
I am watching the news on CNN.
The world is in a bad place.
There are wars or threats of wars everywhere.
The USA and the Philippines are carrying out one of the largest military drills in the Pacific. North Korea just launched and is testing another one of their unending intercontinental ballistic missiles, creating grave concern for Western democracies.
A massive 3-day military encirclement of Taiwan by China is creating tension in that part of the world, escalating the threat of an invasion that could trigger the next World War between China and the USA.
Russia, India, South Africa, Brazil and China are in a new economic alliance called BRICS. The first meeting in three years is to be held is South Africa, but is being threatened by a legal warrant of arrest against Russia’s Vladimir Putin for crimes related with Russia’s War-without-an-end-in-sight with Ukraine.
Finland has joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO. Sweden is preparing to follow suit, infuriating Russia with a continuous expansion of NATO forces on its borders.
The biggest threat to the world, however, is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a conflict that threatens the future of humanity and is causing a tectonic shift in the global World Order, resulting in new military, economic and diplomatic re-alignments, with the global superpowers in selfish pursuit of things that will work for their citizens and benefit their civilisation.
In short, a New World Order is birthing whilst the world sits on a ‘tic-toc’ bomb.
What is NOT in the picture is Africa’s place in these alignments. There may be talk, but definitely is no concerted action by Africa about ending the plundering of the continent’s resources and implanting genuine development of this most traumatised part of the world.
The tragedy is that Africa and peoples of African descent have not come up with the formulae for a common agenda and a common front that would address their own interests and citizens in the ongoing re-alignments.
In the ‘giant of Africa’, the global crisis might as well be happening in Mars. They are so ‘remote’ that Nigerian citizens are more preoccupied with petty issues about their national elections than about ‘these global developments that have nothing to do with the price of fish in Oyingbo Market’.
That’s the tragedy. The ordinary man on the streets does not understand and see a connection.
My phone rings and shatters my reverie.
It is a foreign number.
I do not recall that I know anyone in Greece.
I pick it up.
A voice yells out, ‘Director of the Sensationals.’
There is only one person that will react that way and with those words in my world. I have known him for several decades. He founded a Nigerian football club in the mid-1980s that aptly fitted the description ‘sensational’. The club created history and was a model of professionalism during an era when professional football did not even exist in the country. Being the founder of the great Leventis United Football Club, I called him ‘Director of the Sensationals.’
His voice is on the line. It can only be him.
The voice is unmistakably that of John Mastoroudes, one of the most respected football administrators and club owners in the history of Nigerian football.
What a relief. For years, I have wondered where he disappeared to.
I have not seen him, heard from him, or read about him for almost 10 years.
There is some catching up to do.
We exchange pleasantries. John tells me that he relocated with his family to Athens, Greece, in 2017; that he has not returned to Nigeria, even for a visit, since then; his family are well; he misses Nigeria; he worries about the country of his birth (he was born in Ibadan) and wants to know about the conditions in Nigeria after the national elections.
I assure him that all is well enough to the extent that Nigeria will soon bounce back on its feet. He makes me speak with Barbara his beautiful daughter who must have produced some grandchildren for him by now.
Then we delve into football.
He says I should deliver his message to Nigerians. He is disappointed with the present state of the national team, the Super Eagles.
He wonders why the team is not doing well despite the galaxy of great Nigerian players scattered and playing well all over Europe at this time. Nigeria should be a dominant football country by now, but she isn’t, he laments.
‘Anyway’, he says, ‘let us keep in touch, Segun’.
My day is made. I am very happy and relieved. John Mastoroudes is alive and kicking strong. He says he will join me one of these days on Eagle7 Sports Radio for a conversation.
With that promise, he hangs up.
I return to my previous thoughts.
Last night was special. I was part of an incredible high-power meeting.
There was Keith Evans, the first son of late Lee Evans, the renowned African-American athletics hero who died almost two years ago and became the first African-American sports legend to be buried on African soil.
There was Robin Beamon, the spouse of Bob Beamon, African/American, one of the greatest long jumpers in history, former World record holder for 20 years, and Olympic Gold medallist (1968). She is currently the Director of Grassroots sports of USA Track and Field.
There was Ron Freeman, legendary African/American World record holder, Olympic Gold and Bronze medallist, and humanitarian now based in Zambia.
There was Kenny Anderson, former athlete, foremost African/American coach now based in New York.
There was Lacey O’Neale, female former African/American hurdler and two-time Olympian, former American Peace Corp director in West Africa, humanitarian and coach.
There was Sule Ali, Nigerian/American, former national athlete now based in Mississippi, USA.
We were dotting the ‘t’s and crossing the ‘i’s of a new project.
In November 2023, Under-18 student and club athletes from Nigeria, the USA, the Caribbeans, and some African countries will assemble in the ancient city of Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, for a historic 1st Lee Evans Memorial International Invitational Track Meet, the first such event to be held anywhere in history.
Lee Evans’ work, death and burial in Nigeria are of tremendous significance to the world of Track and Field at this point in history. It will be the first such international event to be held for such a high-profile global sports ambassador by his friends, family and compatriots, to mark Lee’s work, his passage and his remembrance.
Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State in Nigeria, an emerging new centre of a Black cultural renaissance, is at the cups of history. It shall never be the same again with a most memorable project being planned for Under-18 boys and girls, Africans and their kith and kin in the Diaspora, that shall assemble, socialise, interact, compete and create eternal friendships and a relationship for future collaboration and integration of the Black Race.
Abeokuta is preparing to receive the baton of responsibility that the event will birth, an anchor for the common agenda and common front of the Black Race at the Table of Civilisation.