Lee Evans has an idea of what he wants to do in Nigeria. He is not going to rely on U.S-based athletes to represent Nigeria in international meets.
He is sure that he will make them struggle to even displace the home-based athletes. He hopes they will form the base of his programme.
â€œThere are talents in Nigeria. I know it will take time to build them but Nigeria must not wait for the athletes abroad to compete in meets. We can build local athletes so well that they will be beating those coming from abroad.â€
It happenedÂ before when the likes of Celestine Okwilagwe, then based at home,Â beat US-based ones and by so doing equally gained scholarship to leave for America.
But those were the times sports was part of the school system. The play grounds in most of the schools that produced athletes in Nigeria are no longer thereÂ what more the athletes.
Evans is part of the Nigerian delegation here at the World Athletics Championship in Berlin. Fans besiege him for autographs each time he steps out. Many come with pictures of his competitive days for him to sign on. Many of the pictures are beautiful action pictures some of which Evans himself never saw. He liked one particular action picture that he begged the fan who brought it to make a copy for him. The fan obliged. Evans ran sub 44 seconds at the Mexico Olympic Games and his record stood for 20 years.
He came barely three weeks to the championships on the invitation of the new AFN President Solomon Ogba. Evans is also here with Ron Davies whom he earlier worked with in the late 1970s to the early 80s when they produced a generation of athletes that made Nigeria proud and challenged the best in the world. But it is now so bad that Fraser, the Olympic gold medallist and current world champion with her 10.7 seconds performance will beat some of our top male athletes.
Evans believes that Nigerian athletes are naturally strong and with proper training, medicals and good nutrition, he will build a team that will turn the heat to the foreign based.
â€œI can do. It will take a while but we can do it. I have seen some of the athletes at home and I know that some of them can do a lot better than they are doing now. I see them beating the ones abroad. I want a situation where the athletes at home will be the nucleus of Nigeriaâ€™s team to the Olympics etc.â€
Evans is yet to be employed by Nigeria. Ogba says the federation will find money to engage him and Ron Davies.
He may later find out that the structures that made him succeed at the timeÂ Isaac Akioye ran the National Sports Commission and the school system thrived are no longer there.