By Onochie Anibeze
JOHN Egbokhan walked up to me and said, â€œSir, what are you going to write this week? People are still expecting your analysis on the Nigeria- Mozambique match in Abuja.â€
I told John that I have also received text messages asking for my analysis on the match, three of them from ex internationals.
But before I could answer John, my colleague, the young man said â€œpeople are tired of reading about poor performances of the Eagles.
What new thing will you write on again if it is on the match against Mozambique?
John was absolutely right. How many times will I write that Eagles lack aggression, that their marking is poor, that they lack one-touch play and that their counter-attack is slow? .
How many times will I write that Eaglesâ€™ strikers rarely harass the central defence of opponents?.
How many times will I write that the coaches should do something about the reaction of the Eagles to ball situations?Â John was absolutely right.
Immediately he left my desk, I remembered what my friend and colleague Paul Odili once told me from Asaba where he now holds forte as Communications Manager in the government of Emmanuel Udaughan.
â€œI have just finished reading your column,â€ Paul said, adding â€œOnochie, do you know that if you recall a piece you did about ten years ago and just change the characters in the article people will not know that it is an old piece and in fact, the piece will even be more relevant now than when you first wrote it.?â€
That is how bad things are for Nigerian sports. But can anyone tell me what has worked in Nigeria in the past ten to 15 years or more?
The problem in our sports, I maintain, is simply the reflection of our entire polity. I have written it before but let me recall it as Paul imagined.
Ten years ago, many places that had pipe born water now have wells orÂ the residents buy water for domestic use.
Ten years ago, our roads were better than they are today and a journey from Lagos to Benin that took between two and halfÂ to three hours now takes over six hours. Ten years ago, our education system was better than it is today.
Ten years ago, health services were available to the masses than they are today. Ten years ago, power generation was better than it is now and electricity supply was better.
Ten years ago, our sports events were better than they are today. Ten years ago, there were more prospects of a better tomorrow than today. Interestingly, Nigeria is now making more money from their crude oil than they did ten years ago. All these, I first wrote in a piece two years ago.
And, like Odili said, things have not changed. They have become worse and even more relevant than when I first made these points. Five years ago, I took a deep look into our football and said strongly that we needed to start building again and that our domestic league should remain our foundation.
Two years ago, I raised alarm when Berti Vogts askedÂ that Austin Eguavoen to produce a home-based Eagles without compelling the football federation to provide the logistics.
I also wanted to know if such directive was right as coaches are differently gifted and they have different potentials. I talked about the need for scouting policy.Â I informed that not all coaches have the talent to identify potentials and that the federation needed one or two of such scouts who could have a pool of players ranging from the age group categories to the senior level.
This still doesnâ€™t mean that the coach in charge of the national team will not go round to pick his players. It will only help. Such a policy would have helped Sisia when he was engaged to rescue the Under 20 team. I warned that we should take replacement of the aging ones seriously.
I warned that the federation had taken wrong step with the appointments its coaches. I cannot continue to repeat myself. It was even against this background that I once decided to face the entertainment aspect of sports reporting and leave out the serious issues including corruption.
A reader warned that if I did, one day Iâ€™ll find out that there will be nothing entertaining for me to report. I considered his plea andÂ the calls from the likes of Kojo Williams and continued with issues of national importance in sports.
But the corruption we reported in our sports ten years ago is still thriving.Â The general poor sports administration we reported ten years ago has not changed and our sports, ranging from boxing to tennis and to football and track and field, has been nose-diving.
So, what do you want me to continue writing? The corrupt leaders get stronger with their loots, those administering our sports donâ€™t give a damn about what people, The government too wouldnâ€™t give a damn about sports development.
All we do is to vote more to participate in competitions or host some for a few to enjoy some lollies.
What plan does the government have for sports development? From ten years ago to now, what have they done to develop sports in spite of all the papers from workshops, seminars and other studies which have all enumerated the way forward for Nigerian sports?
What must I now write on Green Eagles on their march to the 2010 World Cup or on our track and field as we hope to participate in the Commonwealth games and 2012 Olympics in London?
What must I write on tennis, a sport so dear to me? What can I write now that will make impact on our leaders? . Tell me, please.