By Prof. Emmanuel Ojeme
The National Sports Festival, the Garden City Games, is up and running. By the time this piece is published, it would have ended. Also, the Falcon’s Female World Cup tournament has ended with the team bowing out in the first round, having lost two games and winning one. Today, the Under-23 All African Games qualifier’s return leg against Ghana’s Black Meteors takes place in KUMASI. These sporting events provide a lot of talking points about Nigerian sports.
The National Sports Festival was declared open on Sunday, 3rd of July, 2011 by Mr President. Since then, the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT teams have been jostling for honours. What has emerged, so far, in this competition is the overwhelming performance of the RIVERS STATE teams on the medals table. It seems the State is living up to its boast of hosting to win.
The festival champions, DELTA STATE, are following behind while EDO STATE maintains a distant third position. Although, it is not completed as the race is still on but is most unlikely that RIVERS STATE will be dethroned. EDO STATE must overhaul its Sports Delivery Machinery to make it more competitive.
There have been tremendous complaints about the poaching of athletes, using financial inducement. It amounts to reaping where one did not sow. It cannot help sports development in Nigeria. So the National Sports Commission must rise up to the challenge of introducing rules of engagement to stabilize the situation. Secondly, as stated in this column last week, winning the Gold Medals without raising the standards of performance amounts to going round in circles.
Hence, participating States must aim at raising the standards of performance. I consider too that LAGOS STATE, with all of its investment in sports development should begin to produce the needed leadership with reference to its performance. There has been talk about making the sports festival open to all competitors. If this were done, it would have defeated the talent hunting purpose of the games. It would be proper to channel this mission to the Federation’s competitions rather than throwing the festival open. This will provide another avenue for athletes to test out their strength.
I heaved a sigh of relief in the Female World Cup Championship in Germany, as the Falcons won a consolatory 1-0 victory over the Canadians. It was the Falcons’ best played match. The Falcons maintained their balance in all the departments of the contest against CANADA. They were full of running and determined to win. If the girls had a psychologist, it showed in the way they played. The wing play was superb, particularly on the right side of the field. There was also a better coordination as well. Our team, overall, was short in the basics of football; secondly, they were average on techniques and tactics of football.
They were high on physical strength.
The technical crew must work very hard on ball control skills, distribution and shot accuracy in front of goals. Dede, the captain is commendable in her inspiring performance and leadership as the team’s captain. This team needs a lot of exposure before the next World Cup.
How ready is the Nigerian Under-23 Team to battle Ghana in KUMASI in the return leg of the All African Games qualifiers? It must be taken as war if they are to come out victorious. The game in KUMASI will not be easy. The team must keep its nerves to retain the advantage obtained from the first leg. It will need very high concentration throughout the 90 minutes of the encounter.
I hope that the Coach makes a good selection and only the fittest players must be selected. It will be a restoration of our National pride in football, if our team triumphs over their Ghanaian counterpart. I wish the team success so that we can celebrate.