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Other sports as orphans

By Patrick Omorodion

We are told in the Book of James 2:8-9 that “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. I am not here to judge anyone or say whether those managing our sports have sinned by favouring some sports men over others but it is a very wrong thing to do.When a father tries to favour one son or child over another, such an action is bound to cause disaffection or envy among the children. Such a father may incur disrespect from the child who feels he is not being shown enough love.

Over the years because more Nigerians love football with passion than they do for other sports, government, especially the military governments of the past, which were seeking popularity and acceptance went out of its way to pump money to football.That attitude has continued till date and every administration that comes latches in on it.

That is exactly what has happened again this year.Unfortunately, individuals and corporate sponsors have also joined in the favouritism, supporting football more than other sports.We can understand that of corporate organisations who want to identify with football because of the popularity it enjoys from the majority of the citizens because they want to reach out to their customers.

Every year sports federations send the budget of their activities as it affects national teams’ participation in international competitions to the sports ministry which works on it and presents it to the federal government.

However, the government approves more money for football than other sports put together. The other sports some times are even denied the paltry fund approved for them as they are told there is no money by the sports ministry.

These lesser sports, as they are more often referred to, end up not attending competitions or even when they attend, scratch to survive. The results almost always end in abysmal failure. Take for example, the World Cup that just ended, while the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF got a lot of money from sponsors in addition to the one given by FIFA, the sports ministry still sent a huge budget to the government and also engaged some private individuals to drive a fund launch to get more money for their participation.

However, basketball is not enjoying such attention. As you read this, the senior national men’s team, the D’Tigers are playing their own World Cup qualifiers at the National Stadium in Lagos but I doubt whether they got anything from the sports ministry for the campaign.In the first game against Uganda which ensured their qualification for the second round, the Ike Diogu led side blew out the east Africans 109-66. Don’t ask me how much they got as bonus for that feat. Bonuses are never approved for other sports except football. During the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers, we all know that each Super Eagles player got $5,000 as winning bonus. You can calculate how much each of them got for all the matches won on their way to qualification.

Do other sports get anything? No.Yet the same government or its citizens will demand equal amount of patriotism from all athletes once they wear the green and white national colours representing the country wherever they are. What manner of unequal love is that?After their game against Rwanda last night, the Alex Nwora tutored side will today battle Mali who lost to Rwanda on Friday in the last game of the first round. I know the players, like all other athletes who compete in the so-called lesser sports, played primarily for their self enhancement first before country.Ordinarily D’Tigers’ captain, Ike Diogu wouldn’t bother asnwering national calls anymore if the treatment meted to him and his team-mates in the past is anything to go by.

In 2013 Diogu was in the same team campaigning for the Afrobasket title in Cote d’Ivoire and the team were not given a dime as bonus because the sports ministry never approved anything for them.Two years after in Tunisia, Diogu was on hand again to represent his country but this time injury kept him off the matches. But he was there for his team-mates and they shocked Africa by winning the Afrobasket for the first time. What did they get? A miserly $1,000. This was after then Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission, Mallam Alhassan Yakmut was advised to motivate the players as they were on the verge of making history. That was how $500 each was approved as bonus for both the semi final and final games. The players never played for the money but were happy to represent their country. Maybe that is why the sports ministry is taking other sports for granted. Footballers will never play for nothing. Football can generate its own fund yet government keeps pumping money into it. Is the government fair to other sports? No.

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