State of sports in Nigeria since Independence
Every year about this time we try to analyze Nigeria, all her sectors, and see how far we have gone, what we are lacking, and what needs to be done to improve ourselves as a country. October 1st will be our 60th birthday and looking back most of our sectors have really gone from bad to worst. Discussion on the state of Nigerian sports since Independence sometimes becomes traumatizing because not much is being achieved even with available resources and manpower.
Some time back, a respected Chief in Nigeria, Adegboyega Onigbinde, commented on the state of sports in the country he said if he was woken from sleep on any day and asked what he thinks about sports development in Nigeria, he will tell you, with all the authority of his grounding in sports at different times as a teacher, a games master, a coach of top clubs in Nigeria, two-time manager of the Nigerian national team, member of the technical Committees and Technical working groups of CAF and FIFA, that Sports development no longer exists in our sports firmament.
According to him, he said Nigeria stopped developing sports in 1993. He said unfortunate circumstances subsumed the National Sports Commission, NSC, that was developing sports from the early 1970s and doing a great job into the Ministry of Information, Youth and Sports, around 1991 or 1992.
The offices of the Director of Sports of the NSC (a field technician) with that of the Director of Sports in the ministry (a civil servant) became one. The beneficiary of the merger and new office, an academician, newly engaged by the ministry without any previous experience or grounding in the original vision of the trajectory of sports development in the NSC, was also given the responsibility to run the most powerful and complex sports association in Nigeria, the NFA. He was made the sole administrator.
Such untested power could be intoxicating even for the strongest homo sapiens. Of course, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It became a tipping and turning point for Nigerian sports development. Needless to go into the details, but the resultant effect is that sport, in all ramifications, lost its original direction and has not recovered ever since, 36 years after! Governments were fed a new diet of sports development. Their understanding and their attitudes changed irreversibly since then. The unintended damage was too deep and too wide.
Boxing in Nigeria in Nigeria
Talking about Boxing which is one sport that brought a lot of glory to Nigeria before and after Independence. The most notable pre-Independence achievement was by Hogan ‘Kid’ Bassey who won the World Featherweight boxing championship fight in Liverpool in 1957. After Independence, in 1963, another Nigerian, Dick Tiger, fought America’s Gene Fulmer and won the World Middleweight boxing championship.
It was fought at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan, Nigeria, in a historic fight that was covered by Africa’s first television station at the time, WNTV/WNBS, and may have been the first live transmission of a sports event in Africa. In 1979, Davidson Andeh became the first and only Nigerian to win the World Amateur Lightweight boxing championship fight against a Russian opponent, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Right now in boxing what we have are boxers who are Nigerians but they fight for other nations of the world because of the poor management and infrastructures in the country not because there are finances to run it but because very few people actually know about the sports. The likes of DAVID DEJIRO DEFIAGBON, Anthony Joshua, HERBERT OKECHUKWU MADUAGWU, LARRY EKUNDAYO, RICHARD IHETU, and PETER OBOH all of this boxers are Nigerians but never fought for Nigeria.
Track And Field Athletics in Nigeria
Nigerian Track and Field athletics is one area that Nigeria has achieved the most and showed the greatest potential to be amongst the best in the world. The track and field events cover athletics of all sorts and all ball games. According to records In terms of victories and international records at the highest levels, there have only ever been two moments of supreme performance. They were at the Olympics of 1996 and 2000.
The likes of Sunday Bada, Jude Monye, Clement Chukwu, and Enefiok Udo Obong, all did well in their time as they won at least Silver medals converted on merit to Gold when one of the runners in the American winning team was disqualified following a failed dope test and the team’s victory was upturned and handed to Nigeria.
Another memorable event is Chioma’s unexpected but absolutely stunning 7.12 meters first jump at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Totally unexpected because she had just come out of a 4-year ban, her jump is recorded as the longest by any African in history, and remains the only field Gold medal ever won by an African woman at any Olympic Games. Chioma’s giant leap stands out by miles as one of the greatest moments in Nigerian sports history. Athletics in Nigeria can not be complete if the name Blessing Okagbare, the name will be remembered in the field and track event with her numerous achievements for the country. Blessing’s records in the field and track event include:
Olympic Games 2008
She won the Silver medal in the long jump
World Championship 2013 Russia Moscow
She won one Silver medal in the long jump, Okagbare also won Bronze in the 200m race.
Continental Cup 2010
Bronze in the 100m split race.
IAAF World Relay Nassau 2015
Gold in the 4X100 relay race
All African Games 2007 (Algiers) 2011 (Maputo) and 2015(Brazzaville)
Silver in the long jump
Gold in the long jump and 4X100m Relay Race (Maputo 2011)
Gold in the 4X100 Relay race
Common Wealth Games Glasgow(2014) and Gold Coast (2018)
Gold in both 100m and 200m race and then, Silver in the 4X100m race
Gold Coast 2018- Bronze in 4X100m race
African Championship Nairobi (2010), Benin(2012), Marrakesh(2014), and Asaba(2018)
Nairobi (2010) Blessing Okagbare won 3 Gold medals in the outing. She won them in the 100m race, long jump, and 4X100m race.
Benin (2012) Silver in 100m
Marrakesh (2014). 2 Gold medals from 100m race and 4X100 relay
Asaba (2018) Gold in 4X100 relay.
Blessing Okagbare won a total of 12 Gold, 6 Silver, and 3 Bronze medals.
With all she has won, it is clear that after she retires there will be difficult and getting a replacement for her because there are very little tournaments and programs that will promote the sporting activity in the country and so if we will glory in sports under that regard it will be in what our hero’s past has archived so, it is can be said that we pride in past glory.
Football in Nigeria
Nigeria has recorded a few global firsts in football. Three times in history, the country became champions of the world at the Under-17 FIFA championships. Unfortunately, not everyone would be enthusiastic about celebrating those moments in 1985, 1993, and 2007, continued in the run
The Nigerian system lacks the follow-up skill to gather all this player and display them in the national U-20 as they did well together in National U17 but after the tournament, all the players will be left go their separate ways. Under the Goodluck Jonathan regime, Nigeria won the Afcon Nations Cup, after winning the National U-17 under Umaru Musa Yaradua.
If we are to talk about the greatest moment in Nigerian football it will be the Dream Team at Atlanta 1996 that set earned football a place amongst the greatest moments in Nigerian sports history. Nigeria did well in the Afcon Nations cup they were able to come third after winning Tunisia in the third-place tie.
Presently Nigerian clubs cannot stand with their fellow African clubs in comparison. This is reflected in our performance in the CAF tournament. It shows poor preparation and re-enforcement from the part of the government. Last season there was a case of an unplanned schedule in the league which made the NPFL relegate more than the expected three teams.
NPFL presently is on hold while almost every league in the world has played at least six games in the new season ours is still struggling to start. This has rendered all the players and coaching crew temporally unemployed. With all this, we can say over 800 players are unemployed simply because the chairman of the NPFL is been investigated.
Its been 59 years down the line and yet we seem not making any headway in the improvement and development of sports in our country, Nigeria. The issue of mismanagement of funds can be traced to the appointment of people who have little or no knowledge about sports. We claim to be independent yet we are still very dependent even though we have all that will help us build a viable and sport sector.
We can only be truly liberated if we take charge of our issues and deal with them appropriately. Nigeria is still in bondage. Talking about advancement in sports in Nigeria we do believe that with the current signings Nigerian players are making in Europe the AFCON award is gradually drawing to Nigeria and also the Nations Cup as well.
Nigeria is said to be the giant of Africa but with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, it is obvious we still have a long way to go. The likes of South Africa, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt have all resumed their leagues and we who are said to be the giant are still saying there is no standard equipment to yet to resume.
Mutiu Adepoju, popularly known as “Head Master,” who was one time Real Madrid player said: “He has been in Nigeria for 4 years now and he has renewed his contract and I believe that by doing so, with time we will see a very new Super Eagle.”
Talking about a foreign coach he said: “I believe that Late Steven Keshi is a Nigerian and he did very well, a country like Senegal had a national coach and the team did well. If a Nigerian coach is there and we give him all the support that you will give a foreign coach, I believe everything will go well.”
He further said people who think foreign coaches do better in handling the country’s football thing have a right to their own opinions but there should not be country or race consideration in as much as result is what we are looking for and if the person is giving us the result.
Mutiu Adepoju also said: “I don’t discriminate, whether we have them in foreign coach or in national coach, Nigerian Super Eagle can still do better. If we have them in foreign coach everybody should support him, whatever the coach wants. Like we have with Gernot Rohr now, the team is doing very well and we have very young players.”
He concluded by on the coaching issue by saying: “We had Olise earlier, which things did not go well, then we have Amonike that has gone to coach a senior team outside Nigeria. Though I am not practice coaching for now, but I have a license. Basically, i don’t discriminate. “
The 49-year-old who has 46 caps for Nigeria and scored six goals in those appearances is the La Liga ambassador to Nigerian and he is the only Nigerian player to have played for Real Madrid said the league should only resume if all health safety measures have been put in place. He also said he and some other people working with him normally organise tournaments for young players like the U-12 competitions.
Following the minimal number of Nigerian players in the Spanish La Liga, as the ambassador of La Liga to Nigeria, he said he is working to ensure more Nigerians play in the Spanish La Liga but it will be left to the players to put in their best after they are signed.