By Onochie Anibeze
IT may not be proper to call on Mr. President for most things the ministries and other government bodies can handle especially when they are yearly budgeted for and monetary allocations paid to the relevant bodies.

I’m bringing this to the attention of the Presidency because of the failure of all our past sports ministers, for more than 15 years now, especially from the Olusegun Obasanjo era to date.

In their budgets, there’s always a vote for stadium maintenance. But they rarely maintain any stadium. And this brought us international disgrace two weeks ago when VPRO, a Dutch television came to Lagos to do a documentary on Nigeria’s football, especially during the Clemence Westerhof era when we were ranked number five in the world, the best any African country ever attained.

President Goodluck Jonathan’
President Goodluck Jonathan’

Westerhof told the story of their visit to the National Stadium, Lagos himself: “VPRO wanted to do a documentary on Nigeria and I came with them here, proud of Nigeria and the work we all did here.

We went to the stadium where we played great matches. They wanted to capture the scene and have a nice background. But we were not allowed in. It’s a shame.

I’m very disappointed that we cannot take pictures of where the action took place because the stadium is said to be in bad shape. I assured them that we are here for positive story on Nigeria and that we will not go for any negative thing.

It will not even be good for me to paint Nigeria in bad light because I had great moments here and that’s why we are here. We’ll go again tomorrow with Stephen Keshi, Peter Rufai, Daniel Amokachi and others and may be they will change their mind when they see these great stars of Nigerian football.”

The crew left Nigeria without shots from the main bowl of the National Stadium. The stadium authorities bluntly refused, saying they had orders from the National Sports Commission, Abuja.

The crew formally applied to take shots at the stadium and their application was not granted, the main reason being the bad state of the stadium which they felt would portray Nigeria in bad light if it was captured by foreign television. But they simply said that their application did not get to Abuja. I really understand the NSC but why have they left such great edifice to rot away for years especially when they have a vote for maintenance every year? The first thing sports ministers do on resumption of office is usually a tour of national facilities. They all lament and make a public show of the rot and their determination to correct the mistakes of their predecessors. One almost came across as a comedian when, in less than five months to the 2011 elections, he said that all the national stadia will be renovated with a five star hotel to be built in Lagos, Ibadan and Kaduna premises to yield revenue for NSC and for camping of athletes. I remember asking if the elections would no longer hold for the man to be speaking in that manner.

Like others before and after him, he did nothing on the stadia before he was disengaged as sports minister. And that’s why a television documentary that could do our country a lot of good was being frustrated and the news about the stadium brought us international disgrace.

It is time we did something about our facilities. It is wasteful to allow them rot away and athletes cannot train in them. Some of the foreign trips for training could be avoided if our facilities were in good shape. We know that these are difficult times for our Presidency but President Goodluck Jonathan appears to have interest in sports. I’m encouraged to ask him to do more for sports development in addition to hosting and recognising those who win in international events.

Many more will be winners and they will earn a lot of foreign exchange from sports if we do the right thing to develop them. Part of the development process will be building and maintaining our sports facilities. This is an appeal to the President since all the past ministers have failed in this regard.

Readers’ reactions

Yes, let’s swim with Keshi

The contributions by all and sundry to the provisional list of 30 players for the World Cup have been useful.

Keshi’s criteria for team selection are well known, and he is likely to stick to them to the letter.

A player must possess technical discipline, and display it on the pitch by playing to instructions to preserve the chemistry of the team.

Above all, a player must be physically, mentally and psychologically fit in order to be fielded to play a competitive match.

Keshi defined this final litmus test in his own words “Before I put a player on the pitch, I know what he can do. I know his confidence level. I know how prepared he has been. Some other people might see it as a risk because they are unknown names, with no experience, but I have worked with these players for a period of time. I know what they can do and I believe in them.”

When the list of the final squad of 23 is released, what is required of all Nigerians is to give Keshi and his crew total support and to pray for the team’s success.

The issue of drafting a foreign coach to lead Keshi and his team to the World Cup has been laid to rest.

During the brick bats on who should be selected to play in the World Cup, a columnist posed the question whether Nigerians should swim or sink with Keshi, because he is Keshi.

An answer to the above question may be attempted at this stage of our preparation. “Let us swim with Keshi, not because he is Keshi, but because he is a performing Keshi. His records of achievements constitute his sole testimonial.”

We may not expect Keshi to win the world Cup in 2014. What we expect of him and his technical crew is to attain the quarter final stage.

Any level beyond that will be a welcome miracle and bonus.

Barr M. O. Udeh, writes from Enugu.




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