Mounting Challenges Facing New Sports Federations

•An athlete in action during the Long jump event at Eko 2012 National  Sports Festival  held in Lagos. Photo… EMMANUEL OSODI

•An athlete in action during the Long jump event at Eko 2012 National Sports Festival held in Lagos. Photo: EMMANUEL OSODI

Yesterday, elections were held in 21 sports federations to usher in new president and vice presidents to govern sports bodies in the nest four year except boxing which election has been postponed to a latter day.

Despite the controversy surrounded the elections held yesterday, it is obvious that the new board members will face herculean task in their various federations in days to come.

•An athlete in action during the Long jump event at Eko 2012 National  Sports Festival  held in Lagos. Photo: EMMANUEL OSODI
•An athlete in action during the Long jump event at Eko 2012 National Sports Festival held in Lagos. Photo: EMMANUEL OSODI

Part of the challenges that may confront the newly elected candidates is how they will develop and improve sports in the country. Over the years, Nigeria has been struggling to excel at various international championships.

Nigeria, which was in the leading position in African Table Tennis in the early 80’s cannot match records of countries suhc as Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco today as the North Africans have taken over the leadership position in the ping pong game.

The newly elected candidates cannot afford to disappoint Nigerians again after Team Nigeria’s poor performance at the last Olympic Games.

What happened at the Olympics in London last year was a clear indication that sports apart from football in Nigeria need surgical operation. The show of shame the country displayed at the Games made sporting loving Nigerians to call for removal of the former Director General of National Sports Commission, NSC, Patrick Ekeji and top government officials who have nothing to offer the country. Nigeria, a giant of Africa, could not win a single medal in the last Olympic Games whereas a less fancied sporting nations such as Uganda, Gabon, Botswana, Grenada, India, Dominican Republic and Afghanistan were on the medal table at the end of the biggest sporting event in the world.

Sports Minister, Bolaji Abdullahi after the poor outing of Team Nigeria at the last Olympic Games tasked the sporting federations to start early preparation ahead of Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games.

“Medals are won by people who have worked hardest not by those who have prayed hard.  We can only win medals by building systems that are capable of producing medalists and champions not by selecting athletes that we hope can win medals.

“Olympics are a lifetime commitment. The champion is in the child. Ye Shiwen, the 16 year old Chinese girl that shocked the swimming world by setting a new world record in individual medley was only 12 when her country hosted the Olympics. Lizzie Armistead, who won the Team GB’s first medal in this Olympics with Silver in cycling, got her first bicycle at the age of 4.

“The immediate challenge for us is how to translate these lessons of our poor outing in London Olympics into concrete actions in the days ahead. The process of rebuilding started with the National Sports Festival held in Lagos later this year. We used this event to flag-off our preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and thereafter the 2016 Olympics in Brazil,” he said. For Nigeria to do well at the forthcoming international and continental competitions, all hands must be on deck. It is the duty of the new leadership of the federations to go out and source for funds to organise regular competitions and use part of the funds to organise coaching clinic for the coaches and officials.

Federation should be financially empowered to send teams or athletes to abroad for competitions. Nigeria has missed several international competitions as a result of lack of funds and time has come for all the federations to support their athletes to participate in both continental and international competitions. A squash player, Tunde Babayemi, wants the new board of his federation to rise to the challenges facing the sport

Babayemi said that the new officers should source for sponsors to organise competitions. Anthony Babafemi, a judo coach, stressed that it was not enough to elect people to the board, but the elected members should be aware that they will be held accountable for whatever happen while in office.

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Babafemi said that the NSC should monitore the activities of the federations for proper accountability and transparency.

•Action from the Hockey at the last National Sports festival held in Lagos Photo: Emmanuel Osodi
•Action from the Hockey at the last National Sports festival held in Lagos Photo: Emmanuel Osodi

A cyclist, Blessing Augustine, said that all the federations needed total overhauling for sports to be developed in the country. Gbenga Dosumu, Assistant Coach of Nigeria Amputee Football Federation (NAFF) wants the federation’s new board to focus on the development of the sport.

“The new board should ensure that amputee football is given the required publicity because most physically-challenged persons are talented in football but many are not aware of the sport. `In fact, it’s an obligation that must be realised, as we want obvious positive results. Amputee football can also perform creditably, if given the same attention as football,’’ he told News Agency of Nigeria, NAN.

“The era of dearth of competitions must stop. Therefore, we want board members that are ready to commit their money and time for sponsorship drive.’’ he added.

Douglas Kolawole, an International Tennis Registry (ITR) coach want the board of Nigeria Tennis Federation, NTF, to concentrate on sponsorship drive to transform the sport.

Kolawole said that the poor strides being experienced recently in the sport were because of dearth of competitions, due to lack of sponsors.

“The only visible competitions appear to be the Governors’ Cup Lagos Tennis and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Senior and Junior Opens,’’ he said.

According to him, sports managers who rely solely on government support for funding will be an obstacle to the development of their game they are elected to administer.

“Tennis has been at the background. Its fortune has to be resuscitated through regular sponsorship of competitions.

“Nigerian tennis players can qualify for the Olympics. All we need are sport equipment, experienced coaches, regular competitions and incentives to encourage progress,’’ he said

—Sunday Akintoye

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