By Paul Bassey
The Kenya Airways flight that took me to Kinshasha en route Nairobi also had on board, Alhassan Yakmut, Deputy Director in the National Sports Commission, part of a Nigerian team to Maputo, for a pre All Africa Games meeting.
The moment I saw them, I remembered writing in my last column that it is only when competitions come round that our drowning sports surface, gasping for life. Outside the Commonwealth, Olympics and other world and continental championships, you never get to hear about the activities of our sports associations, especially those development plans and activities aimed at discovering talents and nurturing them for the future.
Kenya Airways did not disappoint. ( I believe, in the absence of our usual money spinning chartered flight, the Nigerian contingent is most likely to fly them to Maputo )
Their current in flight magazine Msafiri ( which you can take away ) had a very interesting feature on the All Africa Games with Olusoji Fasugba on the cover. … “The legendary sprinter, 27, has already won two gold medals in a row at the All Africa Games 100m. Can he complete a hat trick?” the magazine asked. Who? Fasugba? Where is he?
Just before leaving Nigeria, I was discussing with Danusa Ocholi, Editor of the top soccer magazine Four Four Two Nigeria and how he feels happy that the Nigeria Football Association is getting to honour Muda Lawal by inviting two of his children to be special guests of honour when Nigeria faces Ghana in London.
Ocholi added that he wished there was something a bit more concrete than that, citing other footballers ( Okwaraji ) who died serving fatherland and are yet to be immortalized.
Just last week, the President of the Sports Veterans Association, Nigeria Jonathan Ogunfere drew my attention to the death of Chief Patrick Bokolor, a man who was involved in the formation of Warri Wolves.
How many of us knew that? What about the present managers of Warri Wolves, are they in the position of writing the history of their club? I am sure if my friend Pinnick Amaju was aware of the existence of Chief Bokolor, he would have made it a duty to not only invite but drive him to all their home matches.
Must we wait for them to die before we honour them? Can the NFF not invite living legends of the game in Nigeria to watch football matches?
Last week, I extended my congratulations to Chief John Ojidoh who has just clocked 85. A young reader of my column sent a text : “ Oga Paul, who is he?
Good question, very good question.
Right now, I am thinking seriously about doing a weekly column on our sports heroes, veterans, those who are still alive to tell their story.
Chief Ojidoh can best be remembered as that games master at Abudu Teachers Training College who formed the great Abudu Rovers Football Club that went as far as the semi final of the Challenge Cup in 1966, losing narrowly 0-1 in controversial circumstances to Plateau United and denied the opportunity of starring in the final.
Six years before then he was already a grade one referee and handled the whistle for 19 years.
A Zonal Assistant Director of Sports, In 1968 he was voted the best all round coach in the western region, as athletics was also his specialty. Retired as a vice principal and was appointed Chairman of the Bendel State Football Association by then military governor General Innih and he chaired for nine years
During his tenure, Bendel State had four teams in the 12 team Nigeria professional league and this included Bendel Insurance, New Nigeria Bank, NNPC and Flash Flamingoes.
This, is just in brief. I can go on and on.
Is he alone, what about former Team Manager of the Green Eagles Peter Osugo? Veteran referees Linus Mba, Sunny Badru and Festus Okubule, forgotten former secretary general of the NFA Herbert Omokhaye, NFA board members Bisi Lawrence, Prince Oduah, legendary athlete Amelia Okpalaoka, tennis sensation Demola Ali alias Fireman……..the list is endless. These are the ones I see at least once a month, and talk to, regularly.
How grateful I am to them for the endless wealth of knowledge I tap from them.
The Kenya Airways in flight magazine went on to inform that Nigeria will be very strong in the weight lifting event… “ The Nigerians are serious competitors in the weightlifting event, having won five gold at the Commonwealth Games. Look out for Augustina Nkem Nwaokolo in the women’s 48kg, Hadiza Zakari in the women’s 75kg and Yakubu Adesokan in the men’s bench press”…really? Very interesting.
Meanwhile the only thing I get to read in the papers is how Siasia has invited Osaze at last for a FRIENDLY against Ghana, whereas a foreign magazine is telling me that less than a month away, there are certain Nigerian women likely to win gold for Nigeria! Last time out in Algeria we placed a distant fourth with 50 gold behind Egypt (74), Algeria (70) and South Africa 61. What hope Maputo? Who are we fielding ?
As we land in Nairobi, memories of the All Africa Games in Kenya flood back, sitting at the newly built Kasarani Stadium, I remember Onyali’s breath taking 400 metres relay anchor gold and the famous picture that saw her on her back at the finishing line, her legs spread out in the air…..of “Egbunike of Africa” turning a hopeless situation to gold against a very strong Kenyan 400 metres relay team. Labours of our heroes past…
For my wife
Yesterday God added another year to my better half. Happy birth day sweet heart. Though I was not around to celebrate God’s grace, I thanked Him for giving you to me, to us. A friend, a wife,a sister, a mother indeed.
On behalf of the children, may you live long IJN.
See you next week.