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Rescuing Our Sports

NIGERIA’s decline in sports is becoming more embarrassing daily.  We used to rule Africa in some spheres of athletics, football, boxing tennis and table tennis. Even on the global stage, our presence was felt in those sports.

The obvious nosedive of our sports began almost 30 years ago, with sweeping changes at the National Sports Commission, increasingly politicising and ethnicising  sports in a manner that people lured by the large government financial commitment, especially in the build-up to major international events, plugged into the system and feasted on it.

With the fruits of investments made in 1970s harvested while the locusts ate the future, the decline was not noticed on time.

The rapid decline is among the consequences of almost 30 years of inappropriate investments in sports, a shift of focus from sports development to promotion, and massive misuse of appropriations to sports.

The evidences of the decay include abandonment of the once famous National Stadium in Lagos. If not for the handful of private clubs and business outfits that remain in the stadium, the arena which used to be proudly called Sportscity would have been totally abandoned to urchins and hoodlums.

Ill-fated attempts at privatisation of the sports associations forced them to vacate the National Stadium for office accommodation elsewhere, in the spirit of their “autonomy”.

Before long, these associations were forced to relocate their headquarters to Abuja which has not acquired the status of a vibrant sporting community.

After years of some total strangers being Sports Ministers, the appointment in 2008 of Engineer Sani Ndanusa, who presided over the Nigerian Lawn Tennis Federation for more than 10 years, raised hopes for change.

Ndanusa is passionate and committed to excellence in our sports, but people are puzzled that his nine months in office have only seen Nigeria flopping in one competition after the other. Nigeria may not qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the first ever to be staged on African soil.

A deeper understanding of the fact that Nigeria has exhausted her reservoir of sports resources without replenishing the stock is necessary to fully appreciate the challenges.

The new NSC is not even a legal entity, it is a façade.

The extent of mediocrity of our national teams is un-Nigerian. The Yar’Adua administration’s lethargic performances have not exempted sports.

The President is distant from sports, denying the country the vast potentials that sports provide for employment of our youth and the useful investment of their abundant energies in reducing crime and bring glory and honour to our embattled country.

Profound approaches are required to rescue our sports from further decay. Huge investments are needed in schools and neighbourhood sports facilities, training of personnel, and motivation of athletes, to halt the slide to oblivion.

Ad hoc measures like the presidential task force that raised billions of Naira for the Eagles 2010 World Cup campaign are deficient and unsustainable. Sports require long term planning that adapts to the dynamics of a technology-paced world.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.