By Paul Bassey
This is a popular English cliché that says “
…Those who fail to plan, plan to fail …..” this is the idea that came to mind Friday morning when colleagues Olu Amadasun and Felix Okugbe woke me up  to seek my view on the state of Nigerian sports in 2011, given THE MANY COMPETITIONS THAT ARE LINED UP FOR THE YEAR (Okugbe’s words)

That was the cue I needed and I told Okugbe so.
That I thought we will start 2011 building on the experiences of 2010, yet here we are talking about competitions instead of ways of developing sports.

I said to him that as individuals we have the culture of attempting new year resolutions and I expected same from associations and federations, yet two weeks into the new year not one body has come out with a blue print for the coming year given the experiences of the year gone by.

Thanks to the Premiership I had an exciting end of year holiday watching top class matches. Some clubs complained having to play as many as four matches in seven days, yet it was a result of advance planning that was to cater for FA Cup and Carling Cup Fixtures.

If you are an addict of DSTV like me then you would have also come across the best of  cricket, golf, tennis, car racing, basketball and athletics competitions. Pray why are we different? Why are our sports sleeping  while they are up and doing in other climes?

I do not have to go farther than South Africa to give examples of sports federations that are already in the thick of activity this year. The one that trips me are the various developmental programmes that are held advantage the youth.

All over the world, holiday programmes are planned to cater for the youth. CNN helps to bring home Foundations and individuals that float programmes that catch them young in the true sense of the word. Foundations recruit top sports stars and use them to sensitise the youth,  (ages 3_7 ) and introduce them to the rudiments of sports in their early ages.

Sports is used to get kids off the streets, occupy them, and channel their enthusiasm towards more productive ventures.

Have I ever heard of such programmes in this country? What ever happened to the Milo basketball and tennis clinic? What about Godwin Kienka’s dream of bringing the Williams sisters to Nigeria to help us up our tennis ante?

I will sound like an old gramophone if I repeat the cry for us to go back to the old days of Grier and Principals cups in schools. How come inter house sports  do not attract the attention of our sports coaches? Where do we intend to catch them young?

I have seen academies in South Africa, South America and Europe spending time and money to try and teach kids the basic skills and techniques of football. So equipped, the future is guaranteed. What we have here is an I don’t care attitude, one that allows those kids to grow, (most times with faulty styles and techniques ) pick them up and use and dump.

So, you are on your own. So, you struggle and get to Europe and when the Europeans don’t adopt you, we come and pick you, put an age on you ( Do we know when you were born? ) and use you. So structured, you cannot talk about commitment and patriotism. Chinese children that are taken from their parents at age three and taught Gymnastics while going to school, not only excel but in the process imbibe attitudes advantage their career, family and country.

Meanwhile, Football the only sports that is expected to thrive here is immersed in so much controversy that the project of development takes the back seat. Last week, I ventured to write on the uneccessary  imbrioglio that has to do with the Nigeria Premier League. Meanwhile we seem to forget that there are other leagues begging for attention and the most pathetic is the women league , by far the most successful branch of our football.

What about the National league and the amateur leagues? I am waiting for the day we will meet South Africa again in Football. Something tells me it will not be funny. Now, I find time to watch the South African league played on some of the best surfaces in the world, with world class television coverage and you are in a position to appreciate some deft and exciting moves by players who know that a national team call up is guaranteed given the non over reliance on foreign based players.

Wanted, the plans and aspirations of our sports associations in the year 2011. The publication of their budgets, establishment of working sub committees, including that of marketing that will stand in the gap should government fail to meet their financial requirements.

Question. Is it possible for the National Sports Commission to direct all the sports associations to produce at least one continental champion in four years, a world champion in six? What are the hurdles likely to negate such an ambition? What?

For now, let us soft pedal on all those win at all cost competitions that have become the root cause and foundation  of our corrupt dispensation.

Let us resolve to comb the country, discover and develop boys and girls who will guarantee the future of our sports. God help us.

FOR OJEAGBASE

Many more years sir.
Regret that I could not make it to the celebration of God’s grace on you and your family these sixty years past, but as they say, I was there in spirit in honour of a giant of our time, one who has paid his dues in the service of humanity, to the glory of God.

Happy birth day Sunny. Congratulations, Many more years.
FOR OKAFOR

Shock, despair, tears.
Death by hanging?
Suicide?
Shock  for someone I worked with briefly when I was a  consultant to Nike in Nigeria.

Tears for a young man I reported as a member of Nigeria’s historic squad to the world cup in the US. And before then Tunisia 1994.

Can someone provide answers to this macabre riddle?

TWO MATCHES AT HAND
I took a glad look at the Premiership table and found that even if we lose two matches_ the two matches at hand_ the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal will be trailing us.

Do we look like a side that will lose to the Wolves of the Premiership?
Abeg. See you next week.

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