By Paul Bassey
My three day stay in Cairo, Egypt afforded me the uninterrupted opportunity of watching the Paralympics courtesy Nile Sports Channel.
It was also a time to celebrate a country called Nigeria, though sadly.
Let us rewind, to the Senate Committee hearing on sports and the distraction of Sanni Ndanusa who punctuated brilliant presentations to bore us with his “marvelous” NOC Preparations for the Olympics, booked tickets…..secured hotels….logo change…blah…blah
I remember vividly Dr Ken ……. who expressed reservations about our Olympic success but was quick to point out that the Paralympians will certainly do us proud (as usual)
Then he issued a warning that the sooner we got serious with the able bodied, the better because with the world at the vanguard of eradicating polio, Nigeria will soon lack paralympians to cover her shame.
In my Concorde El Salaam hotel in Cairo I remembered all this as Oyema and Onaolapo caused our anthem to be listened to all over the world as our flag unfurled with respect.
I also remembered that in the closing stages of the Olympics there was this joke that should any Nigerian make the mistake of winning anything, the organizers will have a problem finding our anthem and identifying a flag that never saw the light of day even at the submissive bronze position!
I remembered Dr Ken and perished the thought of suggesting that we should boycott the Olympics and concentrate on raising Paralympians(?), even at the risk of being portrayed as a disabled State.
My Cairo lessons are legion. That our athletes have proven that there is ability in disability. I have not stopped giving testimony, asking God for forgiveness for taking even my life for granted. I watch daily men and women scarred by life, yet refusing to be consigned to the dust bin of self pity, charity and emotional tantrums.
I applaud those who conceived the concept of a Games for the physically challenged, I thank those fans who turn out in their hundreds to cheer them on, but most importantly, I stand on my two legs, my arms raised in salute of those who have taught us that what the able bodied could not do, they have done, even better.
All conquering Falconets
At the airport to see off the Chairman of the Technical Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation as he was going to Japan, I reiterated the need to urge our girls to do well. I said to him that coming on the heels of our Olympics disaster, the country needed an elixir, a morale boosting performance to heal her wounds.
The girls have not disappointed. I have been a part of their preparations and I rejoice with them. For a team that went into the competition as vice Champions of the world, a lot is still being expected. Tomorrow will be another day.
I have mentioned the Falconets today because the last time I wrote on the Olympics ( Pussy cat…pussycat where have you been….?) I gave credit to the Sports Minister for restoring stability to our football environment. I said it is the prevailing peace that has guaranteed the successes that we are now witnessing. Some of those who wrote in, disagreed. For them there was nothing like football success.
The Falconets lead my argument. Then the Keshi experiment and the inevitable qualification for the Nations Cup in South Africa next year.
I stand to be corrected. When has the Super Eagles ever benefitted the quality and quantity of preparations now extended to Keshi and his boys? The Falconets passed through South Korea on the way to Japan, the U- 17 are virtually marooned in Calabar, speaking positively. Presently no effort is spared to regain the pride of place football occupied in our sport lives.
By the time a development strategy is added to the plans of our football, Alhaji Maigari and his board may yet retire singing Hallelujah.
Mobil Schools Athletics
In a mail I sent to my colleagues recently, I reminded them that Rio will soon start, from Uyo. Some of them cracked jokes over it…( Pius Ayinor was the most caustic ).
Next week, the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the National Athletics Technical Officials ( NAATO )under legendary sprinter Utit Ofon Nkantah will organize a train the trainers workshop to update members in preparation for the forth coming 12th edition of the Mobil Athletics Championship in Akwa Ibom Schools.
This programme is unique , the first of its kind, the only of its type all over the federation thanks to the unrelenting support of NNPC and Mobil Producing Nigeria. In its twelve years , the championship has received the unalloyed support of the AFN and the physical presence of seven sports ministers, yet we cannot claim to have reaped bountifully from its grass root posture.
I expect this year to be different. With the Olympics disgrace haunting us, it is high time we laid more emphasis on schools sports .
No substitutes for same, none.
Give me Heartland .
I will take enough time and space out next week to congratulate a journalist cum football administrator who has proven his mettle at the helm of Heartland football Club of Imo State.
Unfortunately the Imo State Government does not seem to appreciate the gold in their possession, one that can be used as a tool of peace, mobilization, social engineering, even political popularity. Ask Orji Uzor Kalu.
See you next week.