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Sports: Grappling With Mixed Fortunes

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The Sports Sector in Nigeria has always been viewed as one
of the areas of national life that should put the country among the top players
in Africa and the world.

With a population of over 150 million people, the expectation
may not be out of place considering the potentials we are endowed with.

But after 52 years of nation-hood, the sector and indeed
expectations have been a mixed tale of raised hopes disappointments, heartache
and outright embarrassment.

From the 1964 Tokyo Olympics where Nigeria made her Olympic
debut with Nojim Maiyegun winning bronze, the country’s only medal at the Games
in boxing 61-71kg category, the Atlanta 1996 Games where we recorded our best
performance in the history of the Games with two gold, one silver and three
bronze medals to the recently concluded London 2012 Games where the country’s
athletes flopped abysmally, it has been a case of one step forward and several
steps backward.

To date, Nigeria has won a meagre 23 medals a total of two
gold, 10 silver and 11 bronze medals in nine Olympic outings from 1964 in Tokyo
to 2012 in London.

The London 2012 Games marked the highest point of the
country’s slide into the precipice of sports ignominy.

Team Nigeria had raised hopes of a good outing owing to the
performances of Nigeria’s athletes like Blessing Okagbare, Damola Osayemi,
Chika Chukwumerije, the weightlifting and boxing prior to the Games.

Unfortunately, all of them flattered to deceive and the
country left the Games empty handed to the utter embarrassment of the
Government and People of Nigeria.

The humiliation was so much that a national inquest was
called  and President Goodluck Jonathan
moved to take concrete steps to restructure and reposition the sports sector.

Contrastingly, the country’s sportsmen and women have farred
better in the Commonwealth Games where it has achieved medal success in every
Games that it participated in, with the 1994 edition in Victoria the most
successful to date. The country achieved 37 podium places, harvesting 11 gold,
13 silver and 13 bronze medals.

Nigeria made its Commonwealth Games debut in 1950 finishing
with a solitary silver medal in men’s high jump, while the Federal Republic of
Nigeria officially joined the Commonwealth in
1960.

To date, the country has recorded a total haul of 176 medals
involving 50 gold, 55 silver and 71 bronze medals.

However, the most pleasing performance by Nigerian athletes
came from the recently concluded London 2012 Paralympics Games.

Where the able bodied athletes went and failed woefully,
physically challenged Nigerians stormed London determined to make up for their
compatriots’ earlier disappointment.

At the end of the day, the Paralympians won six gold medals
and a couple of silver and bronze.

Indeed, the Paralympians, with their performance, have made
giant strides that opened a vista to the potentials of the physically
challenged in our society.

However, despite the current elixir in the country
occasioned by the glorious performance of the paralympic contingent, the truth
remains that our sports can achieve much more glory than it has dared to since
independence.

Football in Nigeria, in spite of being one of the uniting
factors has nose-dived in terms of quality, achievement and organisation.

The Nigerian Premier League, touted as one of the best in
the country which ordinary should supply national team materials to respective
national sides is enmeshed in myriad of problems.

From leadership squabbles leading to litigations to poor
organisation, poor funding and lack of sponsorships, the league is currently in
shambles looking for identity.

Consequently, the clubsides can hardly hold their own in
Continental club competitions.

Apart from Enyimba International FC, Aba no other Nigerian
side has been able to cart home the slite club competition in the continent the
CAF Champion League.

Only four others, Rangers, shooting stars sports club, 3SC
Lobi Stars and Bendel Insurance have been able to bring home glory in the
second and third class competitions.

The situation in the national teams is not different from
that of the league.

Gone are the days when the national teams, be it the Super
Eagles, Flying Eagles, Olympic Eagles and the Golden Eaglets steamrolled them
and instilled fear in opponents even before matches were played.

Now, the national teams, especially, the Super Eagles
struggle to qualify for tournaments despite having immeasureable potentials on
paper.

Apart from the women football teams, Super Falcons,
Falconents and the flaminigoes, who have given Nigerians something to cheer in
the game, from the African women Championships, FIFA women’s U-20 and U-17
World cups, football in Nigeria has been marred by poor performance and
near-success syndrome.

After failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany,
the Super Eagles Failed to fly at the South Africa 2010 World Cup, the first to
be held in Africa and capped it all by failing to qualify for the 2012 Africa
Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, which saw the untimely exist of
coach Samson Siasia as the national team gaffer.

The youth teams have also found it tough re-enacting the
nation’s glory days of the 1980’s and 1990s.

But the trend had not always been like this. It is believed
that the major problem with sports in Nigeria is that of policy implementation,
inadequate funding, selfish administrators and poor infrastr4uture.

It is no longer news that Sports facilities across Nigeria
are in terrible shape and this in no small way has affected the development of
Sports in the country.

Poor management of facilities and poor preparations have
been largely responsible for the poor performance of the nation’s Sportsmen and
women in both continental and world championships, making it difficult to
develop and inject fresh blood into Team Nigeria’s contingent.

The situation has even worsened to the extent that the
entire country can only boast of one stadium, U.J. Esuene Stadium, Calabar,
good enough to host Super Eagles’ International matches.

The Abuja National Stadium built about 10 years ago at the
cost of N57.6 billion of tax payers money and others like it is today best
described as a national embarrassment in terms of maintenance.

But all hope is not lost. Nigeria is endowed with abundant
manpower and resources that if the current restructuring effort is followed up
sincerely, the country has the capacity to bounce back and reclaim its place in
the continent and the world.

According to the President, Sports Writers Association of
Nigeria, SWAN, Saidu Abubakar, “until and unless the right things are done
starting from the statutes, especially that of the Nigeria football federation,
NFF, and their elections, coupled with intensifying school Sports and credible
league without government owned clubs, we shall remain where we have been since
the advent of professional soccer and modern Games”.

For the Team Manager of ABS FC, Ilorin, Alloy Chukwuemeka,
faulty Sports Policy and government’s overbearing influence have been the major
bane of the sector.

He however, stated the need for all relevant stakeholders in
the industry to come together to fashion out a new policy framework to chart a
new course via an all indusive sports summit.

However, the expected Sports revolution in Nigeria may have
begun if the decisions of the body, Nigeria Academicals Sports Committee,
NASCOM, recently formed by the National Sports Commission, NSC, on the
directive of President Goodluck Jonathan to revive grassroots Sports through
the schools, are implemented.

According to the committee six national grassroots
championships for academicals in Football, Swimming, Basketball, Tennis, Table
tennis and Track & Field have been put forward with the aim of eradicating
age cheats and keeping the supply line of national athletes open and running.

Nigeria’s sports is indeed full of potentials but the
dividend can only be reaped when the right policies and committed
administrators are made to succeed.

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Reps Summon Dare Over Doping Crisis At Tokyo

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The House of Representatives has begun investigation of the disqualification of Nigerian athletes at the 2020 Olympics over alleged doping, asking the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, to come and explain the preparedness of the Nigerian contingent for the sports festival.
Tidesports source gathered that the resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion at the plenary on Wednesday titled, ‘Need to Investigate Activities of the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development on Failed Doping Test by Nigeria Athletes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.’
Consequently, the House resolved to “invite the Minister of Sports and Youth Development (sic) to brief the Committee on Sports on the level of Nigeria’s compliance with extant regulations set by the International Association of Athletics Federations and the independent anti-doping arm, Athletics Integrity Unit.”
The House also urged the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to put necessary measures in place to ensure compliance with extant regulations at both local and international competitions, while mandating the Committee on Sports to “investigate the immediate and remote cause of the failed doping test to forestall future occurrence.”
Moving the motion, Mr Babatunde Ayeni said the Nigerian delegation to the Olympic Games fared well in terms of performance, thereby raising the country’s rating in the comity of nations.
Ayeni recalled the outstanding performance of the Nigerian Football Team which bagged the historic first soccer gold medal at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States of America.
The lawmaker lamented the incident of July 20, 2021, where the Athletics Integrity Unit of the International Association of Athletics Federations barred 10 Nigerian athletes, including the highly-rated Blessing Okagbare, from the Tokyo Olympics for failing to meet requirements for out-of-competition drug testing.
He recalled that the Athletics Integrity Unit alleged that Okagbare, who won the opening heat of the Women’s 100 meters, had tested positive for human growth hormone.
 “The House is also aware that the allegation further affirmed that the affected athletes failed to comply with the rules requiring those from countries deemed to be at high risk of doping to undergo three no-notice out-of-competition tests in a 10 months’ period leading up to a major event.
“The House is concerned that despite the huge funds being made available yearly for the regulatory agencies in the sports sector, adequate efforts have not been made to get Nigeria into the category where they would be deemed to have made significant improvements in anti-doping tests,” Ayeni added.

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NYG: Rivers B’Ball Team Intensifies Preparations

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Coach of the Rivers State Male Basket-ball Team, Dagogo Okumgba, has said that preparation, are in top gear for the forthcoming 2021 edition of the National Youth Games (NYG)scheduled to hold in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Coach Okumgba disclosed this yesterday during an exclusive interview with Tidesports in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the team is doing everything necessary to get a better outing in Ilorin when the chips are down, saying that the players are in high spirits and are poised to compete favourably when the competition gets underway.
The coach said his players are committed to their preparations for the task ahead and determined to do the state proud at the games come November this year.
“We are doing our part to prepare as a team and wait for a go ahead from the Sports Ministry for camping so as to further prepare and fortify on the earlier made preparation,” Okumgba added.
The team qualified from their zone at the recently concluded zonal elimi-nation for team sports ahead of “National Youth Games” coming up next month.
It would be recalled that the zonal elimination for team events which comprised Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Edo states took place in Asaba, Delta State, fortnight ago.
The date for the competition was earlier fixed for September 7 to 17 this year.

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10 Athletes To Represent Nigeria At Winter Olympics

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Following the successful completion of its inaugural Olympics Trials in Lagos last Saturday,  the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria has stated that 10 athletes would represent Nigeria at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Games.
Technical Director, BSFN, Dr. Seun Adigun disclosed this in Lagos.
“Ten athletes will be named for the Winter Olympics.
“We will have two athletes for Bobsled, two in the Monobob women’s team, two athletes for the Bobsled men’s team, two male Skeleton and two female Skeleton athletes for the national team,” Adigun, who played a key role in Nigeria’s debut at the last Winter Olympics Games in Pyeongchang, Sourh Korea, said.
President, BSFN, Solomon Ogba stated that the team would train on ice in Europe, ahead of the Winter Games.
“This is the first stage of the preparation for the Olympics before the athletes train on ice,” Ogba said.
History was made earlier in the year when six athletes, who were selected from the first-ever trials in Lagos, trained and participated on ice for the first time in Pyeongchang.
Tidesports source reports that after a few days of training on ice, Perpetua Nwanna and Alawode Sekinat won bronze medal in their debut competition, after finishing third in the women’s double Bobsleigh IBSFSliding Korea Cup.

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