By Paul Bassey

Twenty four hours after a new government has been installed, I feel it is only proper that I should address an issue which I have chosen to entitle ‘Re-laying the foundation of our sports’.

In doing so I will be taking off from the premise that whatever was built in the past has been blown to smithereens and there is therefore need to start afresh.

A lot of readers during the week sought my view on the NFF imbrioglio and the dropping of Osaze from the national team.
My opinion on our football has not changed from the one I had last week, despite a lot of revealing developments since then, of sworn affidavits, invitation of the Inspector General of Police and intervention of the National Sports Commission Director General etc.

Last week, I said I did not have anything against the Jalla group partly because they were doing us a favour by letting us know that all is still not well with our football administration.

I went on to blame, albeit mildly the current leadership of the NFF for inheriting a structure that was faulty and not doing anything to right the wrongs.

I do not have to go back to the infamous regime of Sani Lulu that went on rampage, bull in a china shop like, all in an effort to perpetuate itself in office. This regime went on to balkanise the statutes, ran to Zurich to get FIFA approval without recourse to the laws of the land.

Readers will by now be tired of reading that Decree 101 of 1992 gave muscles to the Nigeria Football Association (NFA )and without attempting to repeal same constitutionally, we set up the NFF , and according to the Jalla group even went further to denounce same NFA in an affidavit, thereby creating a vacuum in the administration of football in the country.

I am not here to dispute all this, the question I asked last week, was, does forming a parallel football body the best way to redeem the situation? The answer I am likely to get will depend on who is doing the answering.

I am saying this because we cannot forget that the league is struggling on today because of either loss of corporate sponsorship faith or none of it. You can imagine the embarrassment Guinness will suffer should it play its much advertised Nigeria –Argentina friendly without an NFF on seat, given the drama of the one week ultimatum given to the NSC DG to resolve what will not be, or cannot be resolved.

The mention of the NSC also reminds me that the body is also not properly constituted by law and we are waiting for the day a group of people will rise to challenge its legality by forming a National Commission of Sports ( NCS )!

The Osaze issue is a straight forward case. When coach Siasia presented his list to the Technical Committee of the NFF, the members were unanimous in noting the absence of Osaze’s name and reacted.

The reasons advanced by the coach could not be faulted.

Outside that committee, I am one of those spearheading the return of the star  (By the prompting of Aisha Falode ) who incidentally the governor of Rivers State, during the AIT Football Awards in Port Harcourt referred to as one of the very few disciplined players in the Super Eagles Squad.

Siasia’s doors are open. All it takes is for Osaze to realize that he erred,  pick up his phone and talk to his coach, fly down to Nigeria and apologise to his colleagues and pronto he will be lining out against Argentina. I swear.

Before veering off to attend to “pending matters”, I had planned to use this week’s column to set an agenda for the incoming government of President Goodluck Jonathan and indeed all governments at state level.

It was really gratifying to hear that the governor of Imo state Owelle Rochas Okoraocha paid an unannounced visit to Heartland football club of Owerri in their camp and made promises regarding their welfare and support.

That, was Heartland and football. Does the Imo Governor know whether state basketball, swimming, handball, hockey, judo, weightlifting teams exist? If no, why?.

I want to believe that our sports are nearer the grave now than at any point in our history. The only way to revive same is by going back to the basics or what we are wont to call the grass roots.

I believe that was the thinking of the outgoing sports minister Professor Taoheed Adedoja when he set up the Segun Odegbami Committee to build a foundation for our sports. There is no other way out.

Because we lack stars, because we have lost methods and neglected professionals we have to start from scratch. Starting from scratch means providing the proverbial enabling environment for sports to grow. Unfortunately, in this part of the world, it is only government that can provide needed infrastructure for the development of sports.

I can imagine the surplus of talent the day we are able to build sports halls in all the senatorial districts of this country. Halls that can handle as many as six or seven sports .

Imagine the interest that will be shown by forgotten coaches should they be recognized and offered incentives to discover, train and win laurels with their wards, advantage Nigeria.

There is no doubt that the sports success of this country is also tied to the overall development of the country. Parents in Zamalek, Egypt can afford to drive their children to tennis clinics in the evening, with the guarantee that there will be security, light, good roads and all the factors that will make the task easy.

Who, in Lagos, Nigeria will struggle through the hold up, get home by 10 pm and still find time to pick the child for some basketball lessons at the National stadium? Perhaps if there was a facility near his home, he would have attempted same.

It pains me when I have to stay awake to watch the young  Nadals, Djokovics and Murrays of world tennis flying aloft the flags of their countries and winning mega bucks in the process.

It was not pleasant seeing Phillips Idowu and Funmi Jimoh jumping for Britain and the USA respectively in last week’s Rome Diamond League. While Tiffany Ofili did the 100 metres hurdles in the same competition for the US.

Dear president, governors, I call you to sports action, on behalf of the youths. Thanks.
Man U Champions

This column was put to bed two days before the Champions League final between Man U and Barcelona, so I am not in a position to discuss its outcome.

Permit me therefore to talk about the undisputed Premier League Champions, a club that has won nineteen league titles, twelve of them by Sir Alex. If you consider this a domestic triumph, how do you describe a club that has qualified for THREE European finals in FOUR years? Definitely, this must be the greatest club in the world. Definitely.

Honour for Okpalaoka

I do not know how many people on the power corridors of sports today will remember a lady called Amelia Ijeoma Okpalaoka ( MON )

The Brazzaville ’65 All Africa Games gold medalist in high jump clocked 70 last week and family and friends trooped out to pay her glowing tribute.

The amazon who retired as chief sports officer of the Federal Ministry of sports and social development in May 2001, was not bothered that perhaps she had been forgotten by the sports authorities.

“ That, is an aside. Today I give glory to God almighty for sparing my life to become a grand mother in addition to all the benefits that He has bestowed on me and my children” she said.

Off to Tunisia

As you are reading this, I am in Tunisia by the grace of FIFA to commission what will be an explosive London Olympics Africa Qualifying match between host Tunisia and Senegal.

See you next week.


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