AAG: Congrats, Team Nigeria


Nigeria at the just concluded 11th All Africa Games (AAG) in Congo-Brazzaville posted some progress in the continental sports fiesta when it finished on second position. Although a distant second behind Egypt, Nigeria had not advanced to the second position for a long time.
In fact, Team Nigeria recorded her best finish in 18 years with a total medal haul of 144 out of which 47 were gold. The last time Nigeria had it as good or better was when it actually hosted the Games in Abuja in 2003 and finished tops on the final medals table.
Remarkably, the placement on the final medals table at the 2015 All Africa Games was surprising for many as expectations in various quarters were quite modest following plethora of controversies that trailed Team Nigeria on the eve of the Games in Brazzaville.
These must be reasons, President Muhammadu Buhari commended Team Nigeria for the feat and promised to provide needed infrastructure for the development of sports in the country. Although Nigeria failed to hold sway in some sports it traditionally dominated such as football and the sprints at the Games, we think that a new level of effort had been put into the Games to achieve the feat. This is more so when the level of infrastructural deficit in the sports sector is considered.
The Tide therefore, joins the President and all patriotic Nigerians to commend Team Nigeria, athletes and officials who contributed to the success story. The physically challenged athletes who put up awesome performance to leverage Nigeria as the second best at the Games deserve special recognition.
While most of the events that have attracted more attention over the years failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians, para-athletes came to the rescue, providing a dozen gold medals, the most by any of the sports entered for the country.
Aside winning gold, the para lifting contingent went further setting as much as five world records, a feat that was not recorded in of the other 21 events on parade at the 2015 Games.
However, while we celebrate the achievement at the Games, it is important to look and move forward towards preparations for the Olympics next year in Brazil. We believe that the country must now begin to plan on how to prepare the sports men and women as well as provide needed equipment and focus on the kind of sports that would boost medal generation potentials of the team.
We cannot agree less with the Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Alhassan Yakmut, who noted that Nigeria should not be carried away, with the second place finish, celebrate and forget where we should be. It is time to consciously make efforts at building on the perceived areas of strength and working on the weak areas.
Remarkably, some countries have been making progressive impact at Games with relatively few athletes in areas of comparative advantage, with many medals to show for it while Nigeria struggles in group/team sports like football, basketball and others. This is why we think that it is time to focus on individual sports with plenty medals on offer, such sports like swimming, fencing, weight lifting and others if the country is to stop playing the second fiddle.
Clearly, there is need for relevant authorities to evolve and begin the implementation of short and long term plans for sports development. The era of poor and inadequate infrastructure should be in the past.
While there should no longer be room for absence of sports equipment as an excuse, a programme for identifying talents and building teams for the future must start now.
There should be a commitment to develop all the sports. This, we believe, will require the promotion of schools sports and grassroots sports competitions. Moreso, the private sector must be seen as partner in progress and be given the right incentives to contribute and particularly sponsor different sports at different levels.
Most importantly, the National Sports Commission (NSC), Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) and other relevant bodies must be on the same page always in terms of welfare and target issues for Team Nigeria to always stay focused on set objectives, especially at major sports competitions. We must strive to eliminate the usual rancour, disagreements and distrust that tend to derail our sports contingent at the battle field.