The Nigerian sporting community is known for producing athletes in various sports. Although there are no effective and available sporting cultures for the purpose of discovering budding talents yet, athletes that have been discovered have gone on to do well for themselves by winning laurels for Nigeria.
Indeed some sporting talents are usually discovered through national sports festivals, the defunct Youths Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), famous Principal Cup competitions for secondary schools in Lagos and other local sports competitions.
Given the euphoria that follows after the emergence of an athlete or athletes, it could be said that sports administrators lack the mental capacity to effectively manage these athletes with the view to winning laurels for the country.
Interestingly, athletes in the field of athletics, table tennis, basketball, football, boxing and other sports suffer the ignoble treatment of neglect, maltreatment and backstabbing from sports administrators whom many see as lacking the required experience and exposure in sports management.
That being said, during camping exercise for major international competitions, our camps are usually blighted with so many controversies some of which are non-payment of camp allowances, breaking of camp rules by athletes and insubordination of athletes to national coaches.
More so, all these aforementioned negative vices that have bedeviled our sports, have indeed forced some athletes to either switch nationality to competing for other nations or force many to decline invite to come represent the country.
We shall not forget in a hurry how Glory Alozie, the 100metres hurdle sensation, switched allegiance from Nigeria to Spain. One will not also forget Francis Obikwelu dumped Nigeria for Portugal and went on to win silver for Portugal in the 100metres event of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
It was also no surprise that Daniel Igali, the current President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation was never encouraged to come represent Nigeria. So in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, he masterfully won gold for his adopted country, Canada in his category.
Furthermore, while we can go on to talk about athletes that fall into this discourse, Nigeria football and footballers should not be left out. It is very sad to see Nigeria internationals being shabbily treated by NFF officials who equally expect an excellent performance from these footballers. Incidences of non-refund of flight tickets money, delay in payments of match bonuses, delay and non-payment of camp allowances are some of the unpalatable things that have encroached into Nigeria’s male and female national teams.
On the basis of these anomalies, Nigerian footballers who were either born abroad or raised in other countries have developed the penchant to decline invites to come play for Nigeria. John Fashanu, John Salako, Gabriel Agbonlahor are some of the early footballers who declined these invites. Recently, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori turned down invites to pledge allegiance to Nigeria and play in the Super Eagles. Their actions have triggered mixed reactions from football fans across the globe.
But football fans shouldn’t call them unpatriotic. Instead, fans should take the following factors into account before criticizing these players:
- No athlete or footballer wants to compete in an atmosphere of rancor and turmoil.
- Athletes and footballers don’t joke with their numerations and so will always want their bonuses, camp allowances, ticket refunds and other camp benefits paid as at when due.
- While there are structured welfare packages and incentives for retired athletes and footballers in countries like England, Italy, France and other European countries, the same cannot be said for Nigeria whose ex-internationals are neglected, some of them even die of poverty.
- Frequent crisis and leadership tussle that characterize sporting federations could dissuade athletes’ interest in pledging allegiance to Nigeria.
In conclusion, all hands should be on deck to stem the use and dump culture in Nigerian sports and find solutions that will trigger sports development.
If you feel uncomfortable about our athletes being neglected, please share this post until it reaches NFF and other relevant bodies.