60 Years Of Nationhood: The Fortunes And Misadventures Of Nigeria Sports
Since Nigeria’s Independence in 1960, it has been a mixed bag for sports with surprise exploits and disappointments in various disciplines. Some experts spoke to CHARLES OGUNDIYA on the achievements and disappointments.
Falilat Ogunkoya, Individual Olympic Games medallist
Track and Field has been doing well, just that we don’t have to continue looking at what is happening back home in Nigeria, if we use that as yardstick, I will say we have done the bit we can do. Overall, track and field has done very well. Every year, you will see athletes trying to be there, grinding out results and working so hard so that they don’t let people down. There are so many countries not having the kind of talents in Nigeria, doing better than us. Those countries always put a lot into preparations, but back home here, people are fighting and that cannot take us anywhere. If you look between 1996 till date, it has been different infighting in the federation. We have not done as much as countries like Jamaica and others with lesser population than us. What we need to do now is to put the right people at different positions and allow those with interest in the game taking over leadership position.
Victor Ikpeba, former African Footballer of the Year Over the years,
our talents have shown the greatness in this country in terms of potential. From the Golden Eaglets victory in 1985 to Olympic gold medal in 1996, the world now respects Nigeria in football. We won silver and bronze also in Olympics football and won four more FIFA U-17 titles which currently place us the best in this cadre. With three AFCON titles, the senior football team has done well too but it can be better. Our athletes have also excelled at various times especially boxers, basketballers, wrestlers, weightlifters, table tennis players and combat sports athletes generally. However, we no longer develop sports at all levels as we do in the past. There should be a deliberate plan to encourage athletes and develop sports at all levels so that our youths can attain their full potential.
Tunde Obisanya, Former national table tennis coach
We have not done well enough based on the potential we have in the country. We are yet to take sports seriously and rather it is at the background. We have talents all over the place but we are not helping them to grow. There are must be a deliberate plan to imbibe the development structure in other top nations of the world. We must have template for training of athletes and coaches to enable the country to compete well at global stage. What we have achieved so far are enough indices to show that we could have done better if we are doing the right things in terms of preparation, planning and exposure to modern equipment.
Em- manuel Amuneke, former Eaglets coach and former international
Nigeria sports have enjoyed some important moments in the past 60 years. Our objectives is to see how we can continue to grow, develop ourselves to be in a position to achieve more success and to find a way where we can also encourage our youths and the new generation to really understand that the responsibilities that is assigned to them. There is always room for improvement regardless what we have achieved in the past, but we must be able to be in a position to do what is right and needful so as to continue to enjoy those successes that we have previously achieved in the past.
Olumide Oyedeji, former captain D’Tigers
We already had the good and bad times in our sports in the last 60 years. The best time in our sports was in the 90s and I was part of that story, for basketball, the bedrock was in 2011 when we qualified for the first Olympic Games. Kudos to people that helped to achieved this, they are the unsung heroes, we went to the Olympics, nobody expected us to achieve that feat but we did. In 2015, we won the Afrobasketball and it will surprise you that we were given N600,000 which they will never give football team. It was really a bad precedent, those players sacrificed a whole lot, basketballer doesn’t complain, that’s why nobody heard what happened to us. However, we need to have better administrators. Our basketball is dead locally, people seeing the surface because of what we are achieving internationally, its open secret that lots of federations are having problems, we should put sentiments aside and treat sports as business. Let’s come to a round table, we should be able to put our individual differences aside and develop our sports. We are experiencing a case of suffering and smiling and we should just do something about it.
Rita Nwadike, former Falcons captain
Our men won the AFCON in 1980, 1994 and 2013, while the Super Falcons have won all but two AWCON since inception. We did very well during our time, we were at the Olympics too, people like Uche Ucheria, Mercy Akide, Mary Omagbemi and the rest. And for the men, we have names like Segun Odegbami, Christian Chukwu, Felix Owolabi, late Rashidi Yekini, late Stephen Keshi and others, doing well for the country during their years. In athletics, we have the Mary Onyali, Sunday Bada, Chioma Ajunwa, who crossed from football to track and field, Falilat Ogunkoya, they were all at the Olympic Games and without mentioning their names, I don’t think the history of sports in the country will be complete in the last years. Our biggest undoing was not taking the sports from the grassroots, especially the youth. If you look at some of these countries, they started from the grassroots especially the age grade groups like the U-13, U-14 and so on. We don’t have such opportunity in Nigeria as in talking about having academies which has really stopped us from starting on time, if we can do that, the other countries will be chasing us from behind.
By CHARLES OGUNDIYA (New Telegraph)