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Danger! Nigeria may be thrown out of the Olympic Movement — Okereke-Onyuike

By Bridget Amaraegbu
AS an advocate for the growth of Baseball and softball in Nigeria, what are the restrains of the game in this country?
The major challenge of the development of this game in Nigeria is lack of equipment because it is not like football where any child can just kick off a plastic ball and he starts playing.

Okereke
Okereke

Baseball is a very expensive game with regards to the equipment. In this game you need some protective equipment for your body and also the bats, ball, helmets. Even the face needs to be protected. So you can see that it’s not a game that just anybody can play except a group of dedicated people who can devote their money, time and passion to keep the game going. We’ve got plenty of young people with the talent and passion for this game but they need these equipment to play the game.

Sometimes when I go abroad and gather some fairly used equipment for the development of this game in our country, the custom people become a major problem. They place outrageous charges ranging from N200,000 to N500,000 just to bring in these equipment and we cannot afford such money. Right now I have about 11 boxes of these equipment donated in United States but can’t bring them in because of custom charges. We’ve been talking to them so that we can bring in these equipment for young boys and girls to take part in the game.

I know you’ll ask me how come there are no Nigerians who’ll come to our aid, that is also a major challenge. Most of these companies do not want to stake their money on a game that is still developing.

If Glo, for example, is sponsoring football, they’ll get large publicity in return. But companies do not want to sponsor the game yet because they don’t believe they’ll get value for their money. We (myself and Gen Ishola Williams) have been pleading with them to be part of the development and reap the harvest in the nearest future. You know our people have this mentality of wanting to reap immediately, so it’s been a major problem.

Right now we have about 18 states playing Baseball in the country but they need the equipment to continue. As I talk to you today, even their state sports associations will not buy Baseball equipment. If we can get about 2-3 sponsors, we can bring these equipment in and encourage other states to join in the game because it’s a very interesting game. I mean it’s the number one sport in the United States, Japan, Taiwan and even in some South American countries.

In America, these equipment are used and dumped just once because they have many companies sponsoring the game.
Recently it was announced by the international Olympics committee that baseball won’t be part of the Olympic Games in 2016, how do you feel about it?

For us, it is a major challenge which we must conquer. We had been in the Olympic Games before and we’ll still be in the next one after 2016. The major reason we’re not included is the death of our president who’s an Italian. We’ve just got a new president so there was a break in transmission and I’m not surprised that we’re not included.

I see it as a temporary setback and our new president is setting up a very strong committee to make sure we’re in the next Olympics after 2016. Today we have about 22 African countries playing this game but we’re targeting 40 and we’re looking at 40 because of lack of equipment otherwise I would have said 100. You know that when we go for international baseball meetings, it is one vote per country and if we have at least 40 African Nations, it makes a greater impact.

I’m involved in this game because it’s aimed at building the youths and there’s nothing else that instills discipline in the youths like sports and baseball is one of them. I used to be a sports person, I represented Nigeria in what we call Netball which you know as Basketball today.

My fear is that Nigeria may soon be thrown out of the Olympic movement because they’ve not adhered to the instructions of the Olympic committee, that every sport association must have a minimum of 10% women representation including football.

In international baseball, we have four women in a committee of 22 people. And these women must be sports personalities and people that can bring sponsorship. I think I’ll personally ask Obama what America has got if there national past time is not included in the Olympics Games. I’ll like him to react on this issue because sports is the only thing that unites the world. We’re going to instill in the mindset of President Obama and the sports administrators of the American Olympic Committee that it’s a disgrace for their number one  game not to be listed in the Olympics so that next time everybody will work hard to make sure we’ll included.
How long can people play baseball (age)?

I want to use this opportunity to tell the world that there are only two sports people can play from infantry till when they die,they are swimming and baseball. Baseball is also the only sport that incorporates the whole family, father, mother, children and grandparents. They all watch the game because they can partake in it. Baseball is a sport that consumes the whole family unlike some other sports which divides the family where only the men have interest in the game. I also want to use this opportunity to say that football has been developed to a stage where it can cater for itself.

If the NFF for example is quoted in the stock market, people will kill themselves buying the stock. And when that is done, sports allocation can be used to develop other sports and not just football. After all, football has just one medal while other sports like swimming has about 40 medals, athletics has 45 medals so we need to develop other sports to increase our chances of winning medals.
Again Nigerians should disengage themselves from tribal sentiments and quota system in sports to also increase our chances of winning more medals.


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