From Onochie Anibeze, Moscow
President of Athletics Federation of Nigeria, Chief Solomon Ogba, had for long, planned to hire a foreign coach to transform athletics in Nigeria.
But sourcing the fund to pay the wages of one or two foreign coaches has always been a problem. The sport has been suffering so much neglect by the government for many years.
Sports minister Bolaji Abdullahi who was here in Moscow for the 14th edition of the World Championships plans to address the problem.
He has not only given the go ahead for the engagement of foreign coaches for Nigeria, he has also set in motion the process to hire one or two. He was scrutinizing some of the applications his ministry has received from top sports coaches and athletics instructors here.
And what about the money to fund the payment of their wages? Will such an exercise not ridicule Nigeria when the ministry begins to owe the coaches as had happened before?
“The minister already has a fund for this. He has made provision for this and we will go ahead with the plan,” Ogba said here in Moscow
“We shall not have problem with payment of their wages. The minister has a special fund for that,” Julius Ogunro, aide of the minister said here while displaying the applications.
The minister appeared more determined to hire a foreign coach after the long sessions he had here with Mike Afulaka, the British coach of Nigerian parents. Mike, with his laptop , so analysed the races of Blessing Okagbare that the minister felt a foreign coach was needed to lift athletics in Nigeria.
Blessing’s reaction on the block was not bad but she did not drive long enough before raising her head for the power sprinting. At the time she did, Shelly Ann Fraser and Murriela Ahoure, the winner of the gold and silver medallists respectively and others were still on the drive.
It was at that moment, which was just few metres after take off, that Blessing blew it. Others gathered more momentum and rose from the drive to start sprinting home.
Blessing probably saw that Fraser was already ahead immediately on take off and quickly ended her drive to catch up. But that was the mistake which probably made her drop to the sixth position. Another error that Afuleka pointed out were her strides from 50 to 60 meters.
She was struggling and was not sprinting the way she needed to. Bolaji Abdullahi saw all these and heard the brilliant analyses of the British coach who played back the race repeatedly while analysing every move. Abdullahi immediately felt that the job of really taking Nigeria to a high level in track and field was beyond Nigerian coaches.
Blessing is, however, being coached by John Smith, one of the top coaches in USA. Most top athletes have their individual coaches. But why are the Nigerian coaches not producing top athletes? Do they have programmes that can help in producing stars? Does the system accommodate them and enhance their performance? Is it their fault or a systemic failure?
Nigeria is here for the World Championships and the minister feels that a foreign coach would have placed the country in a better position. That’s why he has approved that for the AFN.