By Patrick Omorodion
Sports experts say that the best time to start preparing for a major Championship or Games is immediately after one is just ending. In essence, preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games holding in Glasgow, Scotland in July this year should have been immediately after the end of the last edition held in Delhi, India in 2010.
In other words, an athlete needs four clear years to get him or herself prepared for a shot at a medal of whatever hue. If this is a truism, then it could be said that Team Nigeria is way behind in getting ready and its athletes may not get hold of any medal.
This practice of late preparation has been going on for God knows when and it is attributable to the non release of funds on time by the government. To beat this, the immediate past Director General of the National Sports Commission, NSC, Chief Patrick Ekeji, when he was director of sports development, backed by the former president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, AFN, Mr. Dan Ngerem and former Secretary General of the Nigeria Olympic Committee, NOC, Mr. Banji Oladapo, came out with the idea of Team Nigeria.
Team Nigeria was to source for funds independent of government to enable teams begin preparation early. Corporate organisations were approached and the response was beginning to yield results, especially after the Nigeria Stock Exchange threw its weight behind the project.
The project, like every other in Nigeria, died a natural death after its originator, Chief Ekeji was removed from office. The man who succeeded him and his team dipped hands into the till and squandered the fund he met in the treasury on other things not related to preparation of athletes.
When Chief Ekeji returned to the NSC, he sought other avenues to raise funds to prepare athletes for competitions pending when government funds would finally come. His detractors would however, not allow him, with some of them actually petitioning the National Assembly that he borrowed money from banks to run NSC programmes without approval. He was never deterred but his efforts did not yield the kind of results he expected because of distractions placed on his path by pure government bureaucracy.
Here we are again, with about six months (exactly 185 days) to a major Games and yet preparation of athletes is haphazard.
My friend, Dr. Daniel Igali, who is president of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation and Chairman, Technical Commission of the NOC recently posited that preparation for the Glasgow Games is on course with the various sports participating in competitions around the world. Igali has been there and knows that our athletes are not being prepared the right way. Participation in competitions is not all it takes to put an athlete on the podium.
Athletes should be in a camp environment where they are monitored closely. They must be placed on proper diet and medication. They equally need a physiotherapist and psychologist to work on them regularly. Not a situation where our athletes come from their various homes on foot or ride in public transportation to the stadium to train after which they stroll into the next bukateria to eat bread and beans and trek back home or struggle with other commuters for spaces in the few buses on our roads.
This has been the plight of our athletes year in, year out until government releases funds belatedly to the NSC to begin the usual fire brigade preparation. Again the NSC is waiting for the release of funds from a federal budget that is yet to be passed by our ever sluggish National Assembly.
If preparation is on course as Igali would want us to believe, how many of the sports that are Glasgow bound have named their team for the event. By now the various teams should have been named for them to go into close camping for a more intensive training and proper monitoring. Not a time when athletes are still at home and strolling to the stadium to train on their own with little or no supervision.
The sports minister and chairman of the NSC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi with the Director-General of the NSC, Tunde Elegbeleye should as a matter of urgency source for fund, if none has come from the federal government, to begin serious preparation of the athletes of the chosen sports for the Glasgow Games if Nigeria hopes to improve on her medals haul. One wonders too, why the NOC is not helping out here but waiting to get already prepared athletes handed over to it by the NSC to bundle to Glasgow, whether they are prepared or not.
Congrats Gen Minimah, goodluck CHAN Eagles
The sports fraternity was thrown into jubilation at the weekend when one of its own, Major-General Kenneth Minimah was appointed the new Chief of Army Staff.
General Minimah, who until Thursday, was the Commander, Infantry Corps, is the president of the Nigeria Boxing Federation.
The Rivers-born Army General is seen as a very resourceful person, out to return Nigeria’s boxing to its glory days, when another former military officer, Group Captain Brai Ayonote, now late, was at the helm of its affairs.
To show that he matches his words with action, few day weeks after he came on board, he personally sponsored a boxing tournament through which the country’s represen-tatives for a an international championship were selected.
Here’s to congratulate General Minimah and wishing that God grants him the wisdom to steer Nigeria’s boxing rightly and leads the Army to greater height.
And today, Stephen Keshi and his wards will battle South Africa for one of the quarter-final tickets at the on-going African Nations Championships, CHAN. Nothing short of victory could guarantee the Eagles that ticket and Keshi should realise that another gaffe from captain and goalkeeper, Chigozie Agbim could spell doom for his side. Here’s wishing them goodluck.