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Sports spectacular

By Paul Bassey
Early last week, the latest addition to the vibrant list of national teams media officers Timi Ebikagboro, called to enquire about FIFA and the Appeal Committee imbroglio. I told Timi to go to sleep and dream, soundly. “Oga if you say so” I told him I am saying so, that nothing will come out of it, that FIFA will throw out the case and allow our football some breathing space.

Last week I said in this column that there is hardly anything to write about our sports, especially football.

The same distractions, from the same quarters, men who don’t sleep at night, plotting, looking for loop holes, spanners to throw into the works of our sports. Men who rabidly believe they have been neglected and the only way to be noticed is to throw up confusion to the detriment of the common good.

Will we ever get to rein them? Not likely. Even the good book says temptations we will endure just as our master was subjected to same, but that there is no temptation that will befall us that we will not be able to surmount. The Appeal drama has been put behind us, but let us not sleep with two eyes closed, they will rake up something soon, just wait.

Waiting for Godot was about the past that remains relevant in the present. Last week I also told you about a book I will recommend to all sports enthusiasts, Sports Spectacular by Chukah Momah.

Before I continue let me borrow the Momah literary style by telling you an interesting story.

When I arrived Barcelona for the Olympics in 1992 I discovered that my accreditation limited me to only four sports ( track and field, boxing, basketball and swimming). Quickly I ran to the IOC office to protest. That I needed to cover more sports, that I was the only one sent by my Newspaper Champion, to cover the Olympics and I needed to be as mobile as possible.

The short of this story is that the IOC people were convinced I was a lunatic. They told me it was not possible to cover all the sports in the Olympics. That reporters come specialized, that even in track and field there are those who come to cover only the sprints.

In the company of my colleague Sam John then of the Guardian, I begged and pleaded. No show. They insisted I could not cover three or four sports that I lacked the capacity…..

Sports Spectacular is about a sports writer, a columnist who has capacity in as many sports as he chose to write on and in this case Athletics, boxing, Cricket, football, golf, basketball and tennis.

Yes. Not only write on, but an authority in them. Here I quote the versatile Bisi Lawrence “ The attractiveness of this book is compounded of the best elements of sports writing, the knowledge of an expert, the exposition of factual detail enamoured of historians; the unpretentious delivery of a master story teller creating excitement with deadpan dexterity”

Sports spectacular is a compilation of what I will call the classics of Chuka Momah over time. The relevance of this book today cannot be over emphasized. In “ Of saints and sinners, a new morality” written as far back as 1983, Chuka talked about the concept of punishment and it’s impact on the overall interest of the team as related to Tarila Okorowanta, Henry Nwosu and Wilfred Agbonavbare.

That discipline can never be compromised, but that such should be placed in the context of morality. If we had read that piece before and after the World Cup as related to the so called “ Keshi bad boys” perhaps we would have gone farther in the World Cup, and in the running to defend our Nations Cup diadem.

In a piece written in April 1984 he talked about the feud between NFA and NSC that “ has tormented football for so long…..”

When he wrote “ A tale of two cities” he was evoking emotions of the state of Nigerian football that have lived with us even till this day.

Do you read and hear of lesser sports? How they are starved and neglected advantage football? Chuka makes us realize it did not start today. In a piece entitled “ beg we must if we must beg” he lamented the humiliation that the Cricket Association, gentlemen all, have to undergo in sourcing for funds due to their neglect by the National Sports Commission but quickly adds that “ authorities must make it easier for us to beg successfully” in today’s jargon we call it “ enabling environment”

This book is therefore an historical tool a reference material in the hand of a sports enthusiast as attested to by Dan Agbese…….” Few sports columnists or reporters in the world can match the range of his authoritative ness in boxing, golf, athletics, tennis, cricket, soccer and basketball. Every piece bears that unmistakable mark, the touch of the master as a reporter and columnist. He does the younger generation of sports reporters a favour by publishing this collection. May they follow the footsteps of the master”

Dele Adetiba concurs “ Facts and statistics- those have been the hall mark of Chuka Momah over the years. He thrived on them – he laced his writing with such details, making a collection of his columns a researcher’s dream- a sweet blend of facts and flavour”

Follow they should. If they do not, how will they know that World Boxing Champion Hogan Kid Bassey who picked up the job of National coach after retirement was promoted only thrice in twenty years as a national boxing  coach once stood up to Isaac  Akioye, then dreaded boss of the National Sports Commission?

If they don’t, how will they know that Our own Jay Jay Okocha made Ruud Gullit’s list of world’s best number 10 ?

Sports Spectacular is about flowery prose, detailed history and command of the English language, mixed, blended to form a unique and refreshing style……” Olajuwon makes a basket of money”……”Only Cassius Clay could have beaten Mohammad Ali”……

For me the highlight of this book perhaps lies in two pieces. “ Reporting Sports with Passion” which was written to commemorate 25 years of Newswatch Magazine and “Sports Development in Nigeria” A lecture he delivered to a group of sports enthusiasts in 1984. Total packages all, unmistakable clairvoyancy………lack of adequate sports infrastructure, blackmail by sports men and women, fraud and corruption by sports officials, neglect of youth development.

Sports spectacular is laced with facts and tell tale pictures, quotable quotes presented as “afficionados pugilistica”

Another wordsmith, Mitchell Obi sums it up when he wrote “ Chuka talks of his subject with a command that is bewitching and I think that is what makes this collection so special. Boy oh boy open the pages”

At dour times like this, one needs a cheering companion. See you next week.




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