Feature: A Sport Patriot

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by Ayo Akinfe

Tobi Amusan has just exposed the lame excuse of bad governance which most Nigerians hide behind for their misdeeds as pathetic

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[1] 100 metre hurdler Tobi Amusan set two world records of 12.12 and 12.06 seconds in the semi finals and finals of the World Athletics Championship in Oregon to clinch gold

[2] Frankly speaking, Toni and Ese Brume were Nigeria’s only two realistic medal holes at this tournament

[3] It is time we look at ourselves in the mirror and ask why we are performing so badly. A country our size where sports is a past-time for every youth should be a global sporting giant

[4] Before we start the usual blame game of saying it is the government, there is no investment, athletes are not treated well, bla, bla, bla, we should take a look at the medals table. Countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, etc have far worse facilities and pay their athletes less than Nigeria does and always finish above us in these tournaments

[5] I put it to you all that Nigeria’s sports budget is higher than the combined total of Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda combined and our athletes are paid far bigger bonuses than theirs. Anyone who has been to an African sports meeting will tell you that the Nigerian contingent always has the best facilities, gets paid the highest bonuses and has professional expertise which many other participants can only dream of

[6] Do you know that Kenyan javelin thrower, Julius Yego, is nicknamed Mr YouTube because he learnt how to throw by watching YouTube videos. Yego is the African and Commonwealth record holder for the event. He basically taught himself how to compete with no training, coaching, physios, financial support or government backing

[7] Many African athletes started out like Yego, competing in school meetings with few facilities. Right up to NUGA, NIPOGA and College of Education games. Back then, the sports facilities in Nigeria were minimal but that did not prevent us from producing champions on an annual basis. Now, however, we only think of financial gain and the government is a convenient excuse for what is a malaise known as national greed

[8] Emmanuel Ifeajuna became the first Black African to win a gold medal at an international sports event when he won the high jump at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. His winning mark and personal best of 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) was a games record and a British Empire record at the time. Ifeajuna did not make one penny from that feat. Where has that spirit gone today I ask?

[9] In 1949, the Nigerian national team the Red Devils visited England to play several friendly games. They were nicknamed the UK Tourists and the players played barefoot. It was the players’ first sea voyage and it was feared they would be sea sick on the two week journey from Lagos to Liverpool. None was sick,however and they kept fit for the tour by running several times around the ship’s deck every morning and evening. Etim Henshaw, the team’s captain, said in one interview: “We travelled third class but we were treated as first class passengers by everyone on board. Those boys did it for the love of country. Sadly, today, everything is about money

[10] Rather than admit that we have lost our values as a people, Nigerians chose to blame their governments. Until we recover the spirit of the UK Tourists, we will continue to do poorly at international sporting events!

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