“Pussy cat pussy cat where have you been . .?

on   /   in Sports Bassey 2:13 am   /   Comments

By Paul Bassey
“P
ussy cat pussy cat where have you been? I Have been to London to see the Queen”

While waiting for my kids to provide me with the full… of this popular nursery rhyme, these two lines I believe are enough to explain the expedition of some Nigerians who left our shores some twenty days ago to London!

As if that was not enough, Saturday morning, Blessing Okagbare and triple jumper Tosin Oke were interviewed by a Supersports reporter on what they thought could have been responsible for Nigeria’s dismal outing at the Olympics.

Blessing waxed spiritual. She thanked God for ending the Olympics without injuries and for the season’s best time returned by the team…blah…blah.

Then came the bombshell by Oke.

I quote. “….If you have rubbish preparations, you get rubbish results. I did not get adequate preparations hence my poor showing…..”

The triple jumper then went ahead to allege that despite the “ lot of funds released by government…” those funds do not get to the athletes!

From today we are set for the vituperation and bile that will accompany Nigeria’s poor showing. We are also set for the excuses of those who will profess Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s doctrine of “ Glory in participation”. How I wish our officials told us when they were leaving our shores that they were only going to participate. They should not have raised our hopes, counted their chickens and rated this as the “best  preparations ever”.

I pity the sports minister. He was dragged into this. And I am happy for the young man, whose eyes have now been opened to the realities on the ground.

No sooner was he sent to supervise the sports ministry that he was indoctrinated on the sins of the NFF and he nearly fell for it. It took the House of Representatives and Senate Sports Committees sittings  to make him know better. I fell for him, when in the closing remarks of that sitting he said he was ready to prostrate, beg those who were embittered, wronged in the course of the acrimonious, selfish and senseless battle that nearly ruined our football.

It is to the credit of Minister Abdullahi that there is a relative peace in the house of football today and the results are being reaped, on the field.

When it came to the Olympics, I will never forget the boast of the NOC President on the floor of the Senate, who instead of contributing to the debate at hand stood up to sing praises of Olympic readiness, booked tickets and logo rebranding. Did I read somewhere that even Olympic pins did not arrive in time for the Games?

What about those Officials who took the next available plane home because they could not even get tickets to watch the Games? When President Ndanusa posted a disappointing tenure as Sports minister and was being forced on us as NOC President, some of us resisted and lost. Today, Gumel who was hounded out for Ndanusa is permitted to throw a “ I told you so” party!

Honourable minister did you say our sports has degenerated? Then you should ask questions. Since when did it get bad?

I remember vividly, my boxing ringside position at the Barcelona Olympics and how we posted six boxers in the quarter final thanks to the industry of the late Group Captain Brai Ayonote led Boxing Association.. I remember that two Nigerians, yes TWO were in the final line up of the 100 meters event. I remember that memorable run by Mary Onyali and co in the 4×100 metres relay final. I remember more.

Sir you came in and they told you stories. What are they telling you now? That a great country like Nigeria cannot win gold in a competition where Bahamas, Uganda, Belarus, Ethiopia, Gabon and Kenya exceledl? Honourable were you told that a nineteen year old Kershon Walcott won javelin gold for TRINIDAD and TOBAGO? (capitals mine).

For eleven consecutive years I have run a Mobil sponsored, AFN approved schools athletics championship in Akwa Ibom State, yet the products of that competition are not given any opportunity to grow even within the state, no thanks to the National Sports Festival culture that sacrifices the development of athletes on the altar of number of medals won. Ye Shiwens abound here, but who cares to fish them out, track and patiently nurture them to stardom?

Sir, are you aware that there was a team, Grashoppers Handball team of Owerri who were African champions in Handball?

Sir, just five, six years ago Nigeria dominated table tennis in the continent? We were a threat to the world in wrestling and weightlifting. Why did we not build on those achievements? What has happened to all our sports associations? I am sure you will want to see the development programmes of the associations in the last twelve months. Please ask for them.

How come we went into Olympic history books as the country that the US routed in basketball?

I became the laughing stock of my family whenever I came home to say “ this is our last hope”…..Okagbare….., Ogoke, Women Relay teams…Chukwumerije…… now my wife has told me to take heart, that very soon one of those winners will test positive and Nigeria will be catapulted to the medals podium. Not a laughing matter.

In Warri on Friday, a comedian stood up to disown Okagbare. That “ Warri no de carry last……” Okagbare he said has been discovered to be of Sapele origin! Laughing away our sorrow.

The last time I felt this way was at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. After a woeful outing, the National Sports Commission asked for the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation to explain how monies released to it were expended and we supported the enquiry muscularly.

We knew we were not going to do well in London. We knew. Even those who made you believe otherwise, knew but for one reason or the other, benefited in “ preparing along”

You spoke about coming home to prepare. I pray fervently for you to survive as sports minister in a government where cabinet reshuffle is based on political patronage rather than professional savvy.

The South Africans have a slogan: “It takes a nation to win gold.”  How apt.

There are so many positives to take away from the Olympics especially the standard of the women football event. I do not know whether our women coaches who have qualified for the world cup (U-20 and U-17 ) took time out to watch and analyse the progression of the sport.

This has attracted me particularly because FIFA in ordering national federations to appoint Technical Directors insisted that they must be coaches who will provide technical knowledge in the areas of youth, development and WOMEN football. For three years going we have not put that person in place, we have failed to draw from the FIFA grant that accompanies that appointment and seeing the technical advancement in women football in the Olympics I have no doubt in my mind that other countries have certainly left us behind.

Honourable minister, you spoke about the medals table reflecting the level of economic development. Yes sir, yes sir, but certainly that will not hold true for Kenya, Ethiopia, Bahamas and Jamaica? Sir it will interest you to note that the Taekwondoist who beat Chukwumerije’s conqueror is from GABON. Gabon is therefore guaranteed at least a silver medal.

With the personnel and infrastructure that we have in place, billions of  naira released will be money down the drain. Organization sir. Organization. International best practices, professionalism.

I quote Chief Segun Odegbami in Sunday’s issue of The Sun.  “WE COULD BEGIN TO MAKE AMMENDS BY SHOVING ASIDE THOSE WHO ARE HOLDING NIGERIAN SPORTS HOSTAGE AND GOING AHEAD TO ENTRENCH A COMPREHENSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE SPORTS POLICY IN THE SYSTEM  “That team Great Britain came back from the Atlanta Olympics to ask “relevant questions”?  Well spoken.

.…….welcome back from London.

see you next week

 

 

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