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Too much pressure, abuses on athletes lead to failure, says Adelabu

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As Nigerian athletes compete with their counterparts from other African countries at the on-going 12th African Games in Morocco, former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu has advised the nation’s sports administrators to desist from putting too much pressure on the athletes, both on and off the field of play. He has also urged sports administrators to stop using abusive wards on athletes.

“One of the greatest attributes of a good leader is the ability to communicate. Let the word of your mouth be full of grace that you may know how to answer everyone, and to bring the best out of him or her. The earlier we realize the negative effects of bad communication among teachers, coaches, and sports administrators, the better for us,” Adelabu told The Guardian yesterday.

Adelabu, who played club football for the IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan, added: “We need to stop addressing our athletes as if they are our children. I am not supporting any form of unprofessional behaviour from our athletes, but the officials need to get their acts together and come out of mediocrity. I think it is unacceptable for an administrator to say because the country gave some people the platform to represent her; therefore they have no right to express their grievances. That is an unprofessional statement. It is the responsibility of the government to engage her citizen in sporting activities beyond the recreational standards.

“Once an athlete becomes a professional by participating in the sport for a living, he has the right to determine which competition will boost his/her career. Our primitive mentality of controlling people, through verbal abuse, embedded in our misconception of seeing our position as a source of power rather than service needs to be addressed.

“There were so many occasions when victorious Nigerian athletes were abandoned after the competition because there were no return tickets. The excuse was that we did not expect them to win the competition. Is that a sane excuse from officials of a great nation like Nigeria? Great footballers of this nation have played matches with their tracksuits cut to nickers because we forgot our Jersey back in Nigeria.”

Adelabu continues: “How many times even during the World Cup that players threatened to boycott training for non-payment of allowances. A player died while playing for his country and later someone withdrew his allowance after all heads did not roll! We have athletes who are dead and the federations still owe them salaries.

“How many great athletes we have produced are in sports administration? We have all kinds of people who have come to reap where they have not sown. How easy it is to sit under the air conditioners and command people who burn their blood daily under the heat to bring glory to our great nation.

“It is important that the threats made against the athletes should be withdrawn with immediate effect. We should do the necessary things and stop owing to the athletes. They have people at home to feed and plan their lives. Many times, some of these athletes may have injuries or one or two issues in their respective clubs, which they may need to sort out. But because we don’t have the culture of following up our athletes, we always think they are not disciplined when they don’t respond to the invitation. We only call them up when we need them. We don’t manage them. This is one of the areas we can cover through the Presidential Council for Sport. It is an advanced strategic sports personality management, befitting a nation with such great talents. We need to be patient with our athletes because it may be difficult for them to open up on what they are going through in foreign lands. Not paying allowances for a sportsman is very ludicrous.  It looks as if they worth nothing and the official would have collected their traveling allowances.”

Adelabu, a sports scientist, describes Nigeria as the only country in the world who runs the sport at a loss, advising, “before any official comes out to address the athletes, they should go and do their research very well so that they will not be making reckless statements to compensate for their ignorance. We need to understand what professionalism means. If the local athletes defeated the international ones, why are you calling foreign-based to come and represent the nation? Why not use the local athletes?”

He challenged the sports ministry to tell Nigerians the number of athletes, apart from footballers, earning their livelihood from their sports, outside the ones employed by the sports council. According to Adelabu, “Athletes are valuable money-making commodities worldwide if we know what we are doing. We should go and check how much our blue-chip companies are paying for adverts on Laliga, the Premiership and others when our own stadia here are empty. Was that the way it was before? In my days, by 12 noon you cannot get a ticket to buy and watch IICC matches, and many clubs like that all over the country. What then have we achieved with our administrative ineptitude?”


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