For a few weeks, before and during the 2018 Winter Olympics, Nigeria was a hot subject in the global media.
The reason was the audacious decision of four Nigerian female athletes based in the United States of America to take up an unusual sport, bobsleigh and skeleton, and to become the first set of Africans to participate in the Olympics-on-ice since it started in 1924
The Games were a true feast of super human feats and skills on ice, although Nigeria returned home without a medal of any colour, the country’s participation was one of the most inspiring stories of the games.
Even as the various teams in their national dresses and colours walked onto the tracks of the magnificent Pyeongyang Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony, the thunderous applause that welcomed the all-black and beautiful, green and white clad Nigerian girls that punctuated the monotony of white faces was a spontaneous reaction to an unfolding historical drama.
After the games the girls reminded the world of the real essence of the Olympic Movement through their conduct and spirit. They did not win any medals. They did not even come near winning one. Yet, with sheer grit and exuberant celebrations when they improved their personal best times even without winning, they taught the world how to celebrate the personal victories, and that ‘at the Olympics you do not have to come first to win’.
The Nigerian girls became some of the most celebrated, most publicised and most followed athletes at the Games, without mounting the medal rostrum.
The reception back home is shockingly different since after the games. And the girls are back in Nigeria.
One would have expected that the sports authorities will ride on the back of the momentum generated by the rest of the world during the games, to make further capital at home by welcoming them to Nigeria like the heroes they really are.
This would also help to shore up the confidence and spirit of new athletes preparing to go for a new ‘war’ at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in Australia to which Nigeria is preparing to send athletes in April.
Unfortunately, I have not read any reports that the country has shown as much love and appreciation for the girls as the rest of the world did.
I am not certain if anything, even a small reception, is being planned for these heroes.
I hate to think that the girls with their unprecedented and historic participation at the Games, one that brought positive global attention to the country, will now be left to wander into the wilderness of their own narrow interests.
As the country prepares for Australia, the atmosphere is fouled with pungent smell of poorly motivated athletes, poor camping conditions and even ‘disappearing’ athletes.
It is being reported that one of the country’s bright stars and hopes for a medal, the national men’s 400 metres champion, may have ‘decamped’ to another country because of the poor treatment meted to the team during the preparations.
The only sport that may have the athletes to compete and win medals during the Games is wrestling. The influence of a former Olympian, and Olympic Gold medalist himself, the current president of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, has a lot to play in the expected haul of some medals in the sport.
The prospects for more medals in other sports are anchored to prayers and miracles.
Meanwhile, let me take a moment to salute Chief Solomon Ogba for his vision, and Honourable Gbenga Elegbeleye for supporting him for creating the fairy tale of the Winter Olympics.
The Eagles of the future!
I have never done this before. I also feel reluctant to do so now. But when certain things fall into place like a jigsaw puzzle, totally unplanned and unexpectedly, and point you in a direction that may have hidden blessings, you take a chance, as I am doing right now, and do it.
A week ago, I read about Nigeria beginning the campaign for the 2019 World Youth Championship for the under-20s, in short, the next generation of Super Eagles after the 2018 World Cup!
I am very interested to have a ring side opportunity to see some exceptional talents and add my voice to the assembling process.
There is a young man called Tolu Arogundade.
He graduated from SOCA, the Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy in 2016.
In the 10 years of running the academy, the school prides itself with assisting graduating students to colleges and universities in America to complete their education. The goal has always been to complete and pocket at least a first degree, whilst playing and enjoying a full academic scholarship. Thereafter, the players can move to Europe and even remain in the USA to pursue their passion, a professional football career when they are still only 21 or 22 years of age.
That would give them a good 12 to 15 years of time to play football full time at the highest levels.
That’s the plan we sell to parents and have always followed, until Tolu came along.
Tolu Arogundade, an extremely academically brilliant student and an exceptional football player, decided he wanted to pursue a football career first and straight from school.
In 2017, he was invited on merit to the national Under-17 team. It was a confirmation of how good he is, apart from reinforcing his confidence and determination that he can make it to the professional ranks in football. This past week he has taken another giant step. He has been snatched by a German first division club, Tolu just signed a contract with SC Freiburg, in the German Bundesliga.
The second player in my radar is also 19. He has also just signed and plays for the time being, in the reserves of Club Atletico Banfield, Buenos Aires, in the Primero national league, in Argentina.
I know of only two Nigerians that have ever played in the Brazilian Premier league – Benjamin Ezeakor and Richard Owuobokiri.
To play in the premier division of a South American league can never be easy for an African player, because of the depth and number of exceptionally talented players in that environment. So, when I learnt that a Nigerian youngster had just signed for a premiership Club in Argentina, and is already playing in the reserves at age 19, all my sensors went into alert.
That’s how Feyiseitan Asagidigbi came into my radar.
I learnt had Feyi actually played for Nigeria at under-15 in 2014. He may probably be the first professional player from Nigeria to play in Argentina. Anyone that can achieve such a feat deserves some attention.
Then, there is this third player. He is also 19 and a true journeyman.
He is of Nigerian parentage but may have been born in Canada because the Canadians are dying to have him play for the national team. He was briefly in the under-20 squad last year but ‘ran’ back to Europe to pursue a more lucrative professional career.
Early last year, he played for Crystal Palace FC under-18 team in England. He has now relocated to France where he has signed to play in the national under-19 Championat.
My enquiry revealed his roots.Emmanuel Okorougo is a brilliant and exceptional talent.
As Nigeria starts her preparation for the Under-20 World Youth Championship qualifiers, I am directing the radar of Nigerian scouts to these three players, who could just be what the country needs to kick-start the next generation of Super Eagles after the 2018 World Cup.
Organisers Explain 2021 NSF Postponement
The 21st edition of National Sports Festival earlier scheduled for November 2 to 15, 2022, in Asaba, Delta State, will now hold from November 28 to December 10, 2022.
According to a statement by the Festival Secretary, Peter Nelson, and addressed to all Commissioners of Sports and Directors of Sports, the postponement was at the request of the host, Delta State.
“I wish to convey the request of Delta State Government to shift the date of the 21st National Sports Festival earlier scheduled to hold from November 2 to 15, 2022.
“It is now shifted to start on November 28 to December 10, 2022.
“The reason for the postponement is to give Delta State more time to complete some of the facilities needed for the festival,” the statement reads.
It will be recalled that the 20th edition of the National Sports Festival held in Benin City, Edo State, which was tagged: “Edo 2020,” also suffered several postponements until it finally held from April 2 to 14.
Nigeria Must Embrace Grassroots Sports Dev – Amusan
Women’S 100 metres hurdles world record holder, Tobi Amusan, believes that grassroots development programmes and top-notch training will help the country discover more athletics world champions.
Speaking in Lagos at a dinner organised in her honour by The Plug, an entertainment firm, tagged ‘Tobi Amusan’s Homecoming,’ she blamed the exodus of the Nigeria’s top athletes to other countries to what such nations offer the athletes.
“Grassroots sports development is something we lack here and the reason we often lose our top athletes to other countries of the world.
“From my experience training in the United States, if we can have such development here, we can groom young talents and unearth more Tobi Amusans,” she said.
On the recent ratification of her record by World Athletics, Amusan said: “That my world record was ratified by the world body means that I am drug free and that I am clean. I feel great about it. Every time I am on the track, my eyes are always set on how to win and I execute it by winning.”
She also spoke on the recent reception by the Federal Government, saying, “It is great feeling that we were recognised by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In as much as we did the work, it was an honour that they took into account and they recognised the fact that we did the nation proud. It is such a great feeling getting the national honour.”
She acknowledged the support she got after her world record feat, with her followers on Twitter rising from 3000 to 150,000 under 24 hours, saying it showed that people appreciate what she is doing.
On the criticism by men’s 400 metres world record holder, Michael Johnson, after her record breaking race in Oregon, U.S, Amusan said she was not bothered. “Honestly, I kept doing my thing because after the World Championships, I had other competitions to attend. I don’t dwell on negativity… I look on the bright side of the sport.”
At the event, Flutterwave, which used the occasion to declare it has signed a multi-year partnership deal with Amusan, said: “It is very difficult to find athletes who embody our core values the way Tobi does.”
YSFON : Academy Coach Begs For Assistance
The Head coach of the De Kings International Football Academy (DKIFA) of Port Harcourt Okpaleke Chika King is begging the Rivers State ministry of Sports, private and corporate individuals and all lovers of football for financial support to assist his team represent the state in Youth Sports Federation Of Nigeria (YSFON) competition.
He said that his team was representing Rivers state at the ongoing Chief of Naval Staff National (YSFON) Competition in Ilorin, Kwara State. He said he had written a letter to the Ministry of Sports and also to some private individuals for assistance.
King made the assertion on Saturday in an exclusive interview with Tidesports in Port Harcourt before leaving for Kwara state.
According to him he had nothing to do than to borrow money for the journey believing that when the State’s Commissioner for Sports sees the letter he would not fail to respond to it.
“ As you can see, my boys are ready for the competition but we lack support.
“ I have written to the Ministry of Sports and also to some private individuals to assist us but I have not gotten any reply, yet.
By: Kiadum Edookor
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