*Whither Nigerian kids of such background, Abdullahi?
|Sports Miinister, Bolaji Abdullahi, 'na so we go dey?'|
Every follower of football in the world loves the sterling qualities of John Terry of Chelsea who broke into his celebrated team as a 14 year old and has today made name, fame and money. He is the son of a drug dealer dad and a well known thieving mother. Were it not for the deliberate efforts of a system to have introduced him to football at such an early age, you can imagine what John Terry would have been today, an amalgam of a drug dealer and thief.
Please ask, were John Terry to have been a Nigerian child growing up in Wudil, Yola, Benin or Ilorin would he have been able to achieve the qualities of these successes? Would he have been what the John Terry we all know have been at his age? Yet, we have better boys and girls who with a similar deliberate structure to introduce them to sports would have been better than John Terry at the same age.
This reporter was the son of a fitter machinist and a petty trader mother in the Kantoma market in Jos. At six years, I had been introduced to sprinting, jumping and basketball. I did not pick up playing handball which I played for Nigeria for 20 years until I entered secondary school. Football was like one of my worst games yet I played to club level. There was a deliberate introduction to sport so early.
|Oluseyi Ojo earned 2m Pounds to play for Chelsea.|
My story is not different from that of Innocent Egbunike who hawked bread and was seen by the coach who recruited him how he masterly sold his bread, removed change and maintained speed. Today, he remains Nigeria’s most successful athlete in terms of medals and honours. The story of Clement Temile of Super Eagles and Leventis United of Ibadan is similar.
Can someone tell me what befalls the Nigerian kid of today who is wrongly introduced into sports picking his skills by himself from the streets by observation? He grows old before coming into sports. It takes him time to become adept and has to cut down his age to play in the national team or break into the clubs.
Now, as former athletes, it hurts and heart rending to see the system that produced us cannot produce better environment for the children coming behind us. That is why we get so agitated and angry at how the current charlatans who manage our sports are killing it. They see competitions as the growth and development.
The only three sports that seems to be alive in the country today are Basketball, Scrabble and Chess. Why is this so? The main stakeholders – the athletes – are involved in the management of what is theirs. Ironically, no sports council in the country including that of the FCT can perform their statutory function of sourcing, finding, honing, growing and developing athletes.
The National Sports Commission (NSC) which is to stimulate policies and direction for the nation’s sports is like groping in the dark. They produce poicy somersaults and flip-flops. Sometimes, the bright ideas that are brought to stimulate these functions which they would have propelled and helped are stolen, badly delivered and stuck.
|Terry, could not have been his if he were Nigerian|
This was the case with the Nigeria Athlete Insurance scheme. This was the case with the Volleyball Players Foundation. This was the case with the national Sports Lottery. This was the case with the National Sports Development Fund. This was the case with the Team Nigeria concept.
Today, there is certainly a disconnect between society and the sports sector. The football industry alone is estimated to be worth over N2.85b per annum is nowhere near its potential. The NFF (with its illegalities) does not know what is its immediate responsibility, which is to develop the game.
Have you noticed that nations where the FA is performing its roles well have a developed league that is thriving as the centre of attraction. The ones who are not doing too well make their national teams and competitions their centre of attraction?
Now, let me re-state it. The very essence of sports is the community. Which community in Nigeria is involved as a joint venture in a sports development function. This is and should be the focus.
BOLAJI ABDULLAHI: It is always good when a person arrives at a destination in the right time and in a right environment. Given those who have occupied the office of sports minister since 1999 when the PDP took over the reins of governance in this country, after Ishaya Mark Aku and Abdulrahman Gimba, I think I should add Isa Bio Ibrahim to the list, the current occupier is one who is well schooled to appreciate what is his role.
Apart from working in a PDP environment which has no room for sports and youth development, this is a government which has proven over and again not to be people-oriented. Now, the minister is working in an internal environment of a department that is enmeshed in its own limited knowledge which is not good to sell what it has in its hand because they don’t know how its managed outside and are not peeping to see what can be done.
Within these confines, the minister is trying to swim afloat despite these albatrosses. I quickly presage again that the absolute failure in the London 2012 Olympics will be recorded against him. One salient question is, what are their plans after the London disaster? No one is seeing the disaster as rain that has beclouded the firmament.
Can we begin a new community-based orientation that can generate 2million jobs in another two years at no serious cost to the Federal, state or local government? Coming from the Youth ministry, he should have been well grounded in these schemes. He was Commissioner for Education for eight years. He was a Development Editor in ThisDay. We are speaking the same language but his environment is too noisy to allow him concentrate.
Why can’t the NSC key into the joint project involving Professor Wole Soyinka’s Chess for School initiative and Innocent Egbunike (incidentally their staff) Athletics Development function that has the likes of Bose Kaffo (table tennis), Sadiq Abdullahi (tennis), and a plot for handball, basketball, volleyball etc for primary and secondary schools in six states?
In all, it is the kid that wouold have benefitted from these projects and become a greater person than John Terry as a Nigerian, that would have ruled the tartan tracks better than Jamaica’s Usain Bolt who was produced in Calabar College (established by Nigerians in Kingston)! It is that kid whose future is not guaranteed and the youths of today who would have gotten some of the 2million jobs not available that is stunning me to ask what a waste is my nation?