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How Nigeria ‘killed’ cricket, other sports for football— Professor Jide Bademosi

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Professor Jide Bademosi, Cricket
Professor Jide Bademosi

*Proud to have played for Nigeria

*Calls for trained sports administrators

Prof. Olajide Feyisara Bademosi also known as ‘Skipper’ is an all-round sportsman. Member of the Cricket (had Colours), Football and Lawn Tennis Teams at Government College Ibadan. He had Colours at UI in Cricket and Hockey; he was a member of the Western State Hockey Team.

He played Cricket regularly for Nigeria from 1962 and was Captain, Nigeria Cricket Team 1975 – 1981. He was one of those pioneer Nigerian cricketers who dominated the West African cricket team Professor Bademosi was Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Cricket Association (1987 – 1989) and Chairman, Oyo State Cricket Association (1986 – 1989).

Prof. Bademosi spoke with our Deputy Sports Editor, Jacob Ajom on his life as a cricketer as he turned 80 last Thursday. Excerpts.

Tell us about your life and cricket

My life in Cricket started from Government College Ibadan, from Form 1 when we were taught the rules. We had Class 1 competitions – all through Lower Six, all through Upper Six, then through the University College Ibadan(now University of Ibadan), then through the Post Graduate School when I was in UCH, with a few breaks when I was away for my Post-Graduate training and my Sabbatical years.

In a nutshell, that covers it from 1953 in Form 1 in Government College to 1980, when I retired. I was manager in 1982 or thereabouts, and when I left for my sabbatical in 1982-’84, came back and ever since, I have not really been deeply involved in Cricket again, except occasional forays like watching matches or attending meetings.

Most memorable match?

Epoch matches? First of all the Morocco-Clark, which was inter-regional: the North, the West, Lagos and the East. My first foray was in 1959 and the Captain then was Christian Savua, from Ughelli, because it comprised Government College Ughelli, Edo College and Government College, Ibadan as the West, then Lagos had Kings College, Igbobi College and St Gregs and the East had Government College Umuahia, Government College Owerri and Government College Afikpo. In the North we had Barewa College and Government College Zaria. The 1959 tournament was in Zaria and the West won. Umuahia hosted the 1960 edition and the Captain then was Maurice Okereke from Ughelli.

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In the national team, I started off in 1962 and my first match which saw me pair Oge Alakija remains memorable because our partnership produced a record, which I think still stands today.

Six or 7 wicket stand, when I scored 70 and Alakija scored 132. We went on a West African tour against Ghana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. I played regularly all through those years from 1962 down to 1980, except for the years when I was away for my Post Graduate 1972/73 and when I went for Sabbatical and that was between 1983/84.

How did you feel when you were first called to the national team?

My first call? Some of us felt it came too late. After Higher School in 1960, I had to apply to LCC. I got onto the field and found La Christo playing and then by the time he introduced me to Maba Oke whom I had heard of, I started playing for Diax. By the end of that season, they thought I should have gone for trials.

Only two of us were medical students, myself and Bayo Olumide. There came a time when six of us from UI were called up: myself, Tony Bandewa, a Sri Lankan fellow, Emma Okoegbe, Bayo Olumide, Ogan, then Ugbuelli who was from Umuahia but came to UI. In 1963/64 UI team were beating all teams in the country. When we went to Accra, there were four of us in the side.

Naturally you feel elated when you are called to the national side, particularly those of us from UI because we were also an annual meet with the University of Legon. So it was Legon this year, next year it would be Nigeria/Ghana

Cricket was so popular then, but why is Nigeria not as strong as India, South Africa and Australia?

One of the many reasons is that Cricket in Nigeria started as a basic amateur sport, sponsored by the schools, Government Colleges mainly, before the explosion, which was very good trying to go to the grassroots. The problem then came with the economic crunch. For instance the price of a cricket bat was less then 6 pounds when I was in UI, or even in my high school. But a good cricket bat now sells for 150 pounds.

Another factor was the changes in the educational policy, where you didn’t have adequate awareness of sports in the secondary schools which were the feeding ground for the national side and so on.

Sports administrators were no longer those who had a background of wide-based training that went to schools that understood all sports. Now you have people who are more interested in “few paying sports” in quote.

Another thing is the material that come out of the system are not properly groomed in the culture of proudly representing their country without expecting remunerations. Many of us have told them severally that this was wrong. When we won the Quadrangular for the third time and kept the Cup, we didn’t have a single reception.

The same year when the national football team, the Green Eagles won the Africa Cup of Nations in Lagos, they were given money and houses. When you look at all this, it is very difficult to sustain revenue dependent sports.

In those days, people paid to come out and watch National Track & Field Athletics competitions in Government College grounds, UI grounds and Police grounds in Obalende. You had the Grier Cup, The Horsey Shield(Athletics) that brought everybody together. Now all those ones have changed.

When we were playing then you could guarantee that you would get to the university and become a professional in a different field aside cricket. But now, you can’t even guarantee that you would qualify when you get to the university because of the numerous strikes.

Luckily now we have grassroots programmes that started on earlier by the era of Kwesi Sagoe as President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation, which have been followed up subsequently. The current President of the NCF Professor Yahaya Ukwenya and Uyi Akpata too have been very supportive.

We have industrialists and entrepreneurs who are supporting the federation and only recently, they bankrolled the national team to a tour of the West Indies. I know the Sagoes, Akinleye, Bob and co-supported the federation. Their support has created the impetus on which the current administration was able to carry out certain programmes. These are some of the background stories that give you the concept that we had administrators that understood sports and were supportive.

Getting this kind of support is rare. Instead, officials look forward to attending events for estacodes. What business has the Sports Minister, for instance, going to watch a football match, or the Senate sending a team to watch Nigeria play? What is their business there? If they choose to go and watch they could do that on their own and pay for themselves as patriots, not to take estacode.

Values learned from cricket?

Tremendous. One will learn the value of time, A lot of players were dropped because they were late. We learned the concept of fair play. In the Oyo State side of those days, all the boys who went on tour, we all sat down, and everybody would choose his team and justify it at a round table conference.

You are asked to justify your selection before we then come to a consensus. Sometimes one was overruled because one could be biased and all that. One would be overruled with reasons. We adopted unbiased opinion based on reality and on facts.. So time, culture, probity and your person. You had to make sure you did things properly.

For instance, you couldn’t wear torn dresses or torn shoes to matches because the younger ones look up to you; if you are progressing professionally, they have something they want to aspire to be. Today, most of the old schools have Old Boys meetings.

Society has changed, cultural values have been eroded and everything has been monetised. And that is the major problem we have.

What Cricket did for me

There is no doubt about it that people who knew about Cricket or who had a similar backgound would have been sympathetic to any of my basic requirements. Like when I was going on tour, they would plead with the authorities, don’t take it out of his leave Something happened and I won’t call it a stand-off between the Association of Resdent Doctors and UCH management.

The chairman of Resident Doctors then was Professor Ajayi who wrote and supported me against the hospital administration saying they should not deduct the days I was going on a tour from my annual leave. That was the beginning of that era when people were fighting in my favour.

Then there were instances where you went for an interview in England. From UCH Ibadan I went to UCH London. There was a post-graduate programme in UCH London for Specialist Neurology. The head of the unit who was the President of the college knew about my Cricket background. When I got there for the interview, immediately they saw me, they said, ‘we heard you are playing for UCH London, the hospital team. That was the end of the interview.

I am sure that the younger ones who now practice medicine and other professions would give advantage to cricketers because you can guarantee their behaviours and characters, but these days I don’t know I have not been meeting that much with the younger breed. But for the older ones I know, I could guarantee their person, their behaviour, their outlook, their commitment, their probity.

Okon is here, when we were playing Oyo State, it wasn’t unusual for me to pay for air ticket or bus ticket for players. The money that was released by the sports council wasn’t handled by me but was handled by the players. Sholeye, Hughes and Komi Agodo. The players took what they liked, when we came back the money was retired and no questions were asked.

Why was government College Ibadan, so strong in Cricket?

It is the tradition. We had the basic tradition. There was the safety of the students and we had the facilities. Every season the whole school, whatever sport were divided into divisions and these divisions were dependent on standards. We had masters who supervised the training and the senior ones groomed them.

We had the senior ones taking charge of the junior ones. We had Peter Dolan who was a cricketer from Cambridge, even Joe Hamilton and Everton Benson and we started this competition. People were playing and for a young boy of Form 1 or Form 2 to get to the College’s first team, it was a thing of pride because you toured Kings College, went to Igbobi College, went to Onitcha, Umuahia, Ughelli. We had tours.

We didn’t care whether we were not paid. And each school had certain sports that were unique to them. For instance, Government College and cricket; you find the style of play, the practices and the training you had was there right from Form 1.So even if you came from outside, you had to fit in and you had to get into any of the games.

That is why GCI was very strong because we had the background and the tradition.. Like Kings College and St Gregs. Kings College at some point were very popular for Track & Field. Gregs was for football because of Father Slattery who later went on to St Fimbars and started Athletics. It’s like Gregs and Igbobi now still have that belief that football belongs to them.

Of all the sports, why did you chose Cricket?

It was fortuitous. I grew up in a house that had a cricket tradition. My uncle Bunmi Onoji was an Engineering student in our house. He was the captain of Cricket team. I had a fortuitous catch and I grew up in that tradition. Olunloyo, Onoji, Akinola.

But at the same time, at school, you played all games but we couldn’t play football and Hockey the same time because they were of the same season. If you were lucky to play Cricket in the dry season, then Track & Field from January till March, then football season from March to August. So you either choose one or the other.

For Inter-House, it didn’t matter in Government College I played football while in the University of Ibadan. I played Hockey. I was a member of the Western State team that won the Regional Hockey Competition in 1966. I was a member of the national Hockey team that was to go for an international competition but it was too close to my finals.

On that note, we played Tennis for my school at inter-schools competitions. In Chess I represented Government College against Umuahia. In UI I was Sportsman of the Year in 1963/64 because I played for the Inter-University Games. I played Cricket, I had my colours.This was about the best time one could combine his time with other games.

Your message to Nigerian Sports administrators?

They should get rid of politicians who want to interfere with the administration of sports in the country. Get people who are knowledgeable, who have a background in sports whether on academic basis or in practical terms.

And more importantly, probity. If you cut away all those fringes like Senators, friends and all those who see every sporting event as a jamboree, where you pay one individual estacodes that would be enough to pay for the whole team things would be better.

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When I was still playing, as captain of my team, I was supposed to be on $180 – $250 dollars a day, but as a player, I was supposed to be paid $6 dollars a day. Yet they wanted me to take officials who would have been paid $180 dollars a day.

I asked some of them, why don’t you let go part of your allowances, put it in the kitty, along with mine so we could share it among the players. We did, but that is on a personal basis as either a captain or a player. But if we have such strict adherence to probity and justifiable administration of funds and those who know enough, not because they want to be there for the largess, then there will be a future.

Luckily now Cricket has some. Professor Yahaya Ukwenya, with his practice still have time, and Uyi Akpata with his banking and insurance background has enough accountability from his business to be able to justify what he is doing, if not they will not get any sponsorship.

We were lucky we had people like late Alex Nwokedi who was with NNPC to sponsor the schools cricket and developed his old school, Alma Mater, St Gregs. We had La Christo who used his brother’s publicity outfit to facilitate the development of cricket in the early 70s.

Those are the few that came to my mind that helped. Even John Abebe, Mike Ayivor got sponsorship to start HOWZAT Foundation. In Ogun State, we had late Dr Ibikunle and then late Mike Olumide among others. We had Overejo in Edo, Nwosisi in the East, Tony Egbe, Jake Onyechi.

It will be unfair not to pay homage to a whole lot of people who have helped down the road. The old school teachers and the coaches, if I can remember a few. I remember People like Professor Fagbesan, Onifade, Awala, Adedeji, Akioye, Oyewusi, Christian Enahoro, Olunloyo, Munro one or two of Kings College boys, like Akpata, down the east we have ABC Nwosisi, George Ogan.

In the north we had Akiti, the Airforce fellow who helped develop cricket in Zaria and Kaduna. They helped propagate the culture of cricket in the country. Tayo Akpata was of tremendous help when he was Registrar in UI. He knew what the team wanted at any point in time.

Professor Fabgesan, who when I was going for the Commonwealth Award for Medicine, paid for me to go to the coaching school in London dueing the three months interval, when I was on scholarship as an external student in London and so many others in Ghana, The Gambia and in Sierra Leone.

Thank you so much, Prof.

It’s my pleasure.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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