Between Football, Basketball And Other Sports

Editorial

Nigeria has once again boxed itself into the hall of shame by pulling out of the 2011 FIBA World Championships for U-19 Women in Chile and the Africa Championships for U-16 Men and Women slated for Egypt from 8-17 July and 22-31 July respectively.

It is a big shame for an oil-rich country as Nigeria to withdraw from these major championships where the country could have finished in the medal bracket.

Lack of funds was cited as the reason for the disgraceful exit. But we insist that lack of careful planning and the unbridled interest of the Sports Ministry in football are the reasons for the embarrassing situation in which the nation has found itself.

If these tournaments were to be football, the Sports Ministry would have secured funds from anywhere to ensure that the nation participated in them. We recall that a task force was set up for the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign by Nigeria’s Super Eagles when the team was facing some financial crunch. The task force headed by Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi raised millions of naira and ensured that the Eagles were pampered during the qualifying matches and at the World Cup hosted by South Africa.

Our sports administrators must be living in denial if they can’t come to terms with the fact that apart from football, basketball is one game loved so much by our youths. They need to harness the potentials of this game for it to achieve the desired result.

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Too much attention is paid to soccer by the Sports Ministry to the detriment of other sports, especially basketball which is a money spinner in other parts of the world. Football may be the king of sports but basketball is also a crowd pulling game and should be accorded adequate attention also.

Citing the non-implementation of the 2011 budget is not an excuse for pulling out of these championships. What stopped the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF, from seeking sponsors like NB Plc, bottlers of Sprite or other corporate organisations to bankroll the expenses of our teams to the championships? Knowing quite well that these tournaments were on its calendar, NBBF should have started planning how it would get funds for the nation’s basketball teams to the major championships.

Withdrawing from the championships will adversely affect the development of the game in the country. Basketball ranks second to football in terms of popularity in the country and as such it should not be treated with scorn by our sports administrators.

Since NBBF has camped the players for the tourneys here in Nigeria and America, funds should be provided for them to participate in the championships. If not, the huge funds already spent on the camping exercise would be a waste.

If a country like Egypt, which qualified alongside Nigeria to represent Africa at the FIBA U-19 Championship in Chile, will participate, then Nigeria, the so-called giant of Africa and an oil-rich nation, should be ashamed to pull out due to lack of funds.

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