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A word for Lagos and sports minister

By Onochie Anibeze
May I start with Lagos State.They are the hosts of the next National Sports Festival. They saw the opening and closing ceremonies of the Garden City Games in Port Harcourt.

The opening, by the Nigeria’s standard, was stupendous. Nothing like that had ever happened, thanks to the foreign hands they hired.

I hope Lagos noted the spectacle. But I also hope that they noted the long speeches that are not necessary in sports events. I don’t know why it is difficult to make Nigerian officials respect international standards. They attend games like the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games etc but they learn nothing from these events.

I’ll never forget former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar still reading a long speech when FIFA ordered players to file out for the opening game of the World Youth Soccer Championship tagged Nigeria ’99. When the cheers overshadowed him, he flipped two pages and ended the speech. He was meant to declare the Championship open but was not guided by sports officials who even contributed to the long speech. By the time he  said “I now declare the championship open” nobody heard him. The cheers consumed the atmosphere.

Camera steadily showed President Goodluck Jonathan gisting away while NSC Director General, Patrick Ekeji read his speech.

There were too many long speeches at the opening ceremony of the Garden City Games, otherwise it was superb.
The closing was also great only that wrong programming denied us the usual fanfare that ends such shows.

There were events like presentation of awards after the games had been declared closed. The worst was when athletes and performers were allowed onto the arena when popular musician Tu Face entertained.

They danced and danced thinking that they had the day as it is usually the case at the Olympics and other events that I have attended. But after Tu Face had done two songs, the announcer started calling them out so that other events could continue. That was WRONG. At that juncture it should have been music all the way.

They had a hell of a time trying to get people out of the arena. It became rowdy and the night lost the colour it deserved. Security men battled with crowd in the field and the fanfare was lost to confusion. Music or cultural interludes can come in-between programmes but the moment the games are declared closed fireworks follow. Then music flows from great artists and everybody dances. You don’t stop them at this time.

The atmosphere is usually emotional as it is the last day. I’ll never forget the dance steps of Mitchel Obi at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. We all had fun dancing to the melodious tunes that night.

After Tu Face, fans expected  more artists to take the stage only for them to be called out for presentation. I couldn’t hold back my anger and almost cursed those who programmed the closing ceremony of the Garden City games that way. I hope Lagos took notes.

Yusuf Suleiman. Yusuf Suleman. Yusuf Suleiman.

How many times have I called this name now?

I call it with most respect. The repetition is for emphasis.

I welcome the move to ensure peace in the sports family. But I think that Yusuf Suleiman has not been properly briefed. If he were I’m not sure he would call for a meeting between the Nigeria Football Federation and a group that tried to form a parallel body to run football because the authentic body took another name. He would have asked the authentic body to revert to the name recognised by law and not to even ask the leader of that group to read out the communique  after the said meeting.

Was the minister told that the same people forming a parallel body contested election to be into the same NFF?

Is forming a parallel group the best thing to do when you fail to win election or find fault in organisations? If it were so Nigeria would have disintegrated into more than 20 countries.

Does the minister know that the establishment of the National Sports Commission has not been backed by law? So if a group emerges today and forms a parallel body he will agree to sit in a meeting with them? Settle what? I’ve written on this before and I’m doing it again because we have a new sports minister who could easily be misled. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing to settle with the Jarret Tenebe group.

It is wrong to form a parallel football administration body. Their action, we know, is an offshoot from the last football elections. Those whose candidates couldn’t win are behind this.  They want Maigari and his men out.  Deposing them is not what bothers me but the lingering crisis that could rock our football.

I feel for our football and not the warring groups. I said before that NFF was wrong to change their name but that  shouldn’t have warranted the formation of another parallel body. This is my simple position,  Yusuf Suleiman, our Honourble Minister of Sports. They may tell you some complicated stories but this is the main issue. The other ones resulting from the election can be settled by a competent Court of Arbitration.

Luckily, the Nigeria Olympic Committee has set up a  committee headed by Barrister Adokiye Amiesimeka, a former Attorney General of Rivers State and a great ex international of repute to facilitate the establishment of our Court of Arbitration for Sports. I may not be a fan of the Maigari led NFF but the thing is that they won the election and should be given the chance to operate. And so far, they are doing well.

When our teams lose matches now people no longer blame the federation but the players and coaches. This is because we are all witnesses to the adequate preparation the teams go through. Remember Falcons before the World Cup in Germany?

They never had it better. This federation may not get a few things right but they are working. The next thing is to take our football to lofty heights. Administration of the game is not only about preparing teams for competitions. There should be youth programme. Justice must be done to our league. Coaches, referees and FA staff must benefit from some programmes. What about the scouting policy that I have been campaigning for? FA must be meticulous in selecting coaches.

If you give the world to a wrong coach he may still not turn a winner.  We don’t need any FIFA ban now or in the future. We don’t need this lingering squabble that the new minister has unknowingly been coerced into.

Let me, at this juncture, welcome the minister and tell him that I wish him well. And in my usual style, I’ll support him to succeed but will not hesitate to throw ‘stones’ when he begins to blunder like many of his predecessors did. Welcome Yusuf Suleiman, our new sports minister.

Obuh: No reasons to fail
The FIFA U-20 World Cup starts in Columbia today and Nigeria’s flag will grace the sky among other football nations of the world. In the history of youth competition, no Nigerian team has ever been so supported in terms of preparation.

Before the African Championship in South Africa, the team toured Libya, Turkey, Greece and UAE where they played an invitational tournament. Before arriving Colombia, the team trained in Portugal and played a four nation tournament in Panama where they lost 2-0 to Portugal, 4-1 to Mexico and drew with Panama. These were no good results.

But in some cases, the results of  friendlies before a tournament do not necessarily reflect the strength of the team. Remember England before Euro ’96 and what happened when the games began? I hope their case will be  like that.  Based on their preparation, they have no reason to fail. I  wish them good luck.


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