Feature: The Sport Policy needed in Nigeria

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By Ayo Akinfe

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I see no reason why the contenders for Nigeria’s presidency should not have a sports policy that includes winning the World Cup during their tenure and hosting the mundial in our lifetime

[1] Nigeria is the world’s largest black nation and that brings along with it a lot of responsibilities. It is totally unacceptable that small nations like Qatar can host the World Cup and this global giant cannot

[2] Also very disturbingly, how can small nations like Uruguay brag about having won the World Cup before and Nigeria cannot. As a people, these are the kind of lofty targets, goals and quotas we have to set ourselves as a nation

[3] Do you know that Nigeria is in the unique position of being the last team Diego Maradona played against before he retired. His last football match was against the Super Eagles in the 1994 World Cup. Maradona always had a close affinity with Nigeria, partly because we have met Argentina five times at the World Cup. Apart from the 1998 World Cup, we always ended up in the same group with Argentina at the Mundial and we should cash in on that

[4] I still have vivid images of Maradona, the Argentina manager hugging Nwankwo Kanu on the touchline just before their group game against us at the 2002 World Cup. From everything I saw, he actually had a lot of respect for Nigeria. Unfortunately, Nigeria also sent Maradona to hospital in 2018 as he collapsed in the stadium after Victor Moses’ penalty which squared the game. The thought of Nigeria dumping Argentina out of the tournament appeared to be a bit too much for him to take. Luckily, he made a great recovery

[5] To cash in on this affinity, one of our governors should open a Diego Maradona Football Academy in his state in conjunction with the Argentine Football Federation. This academy should train pupils from Junior Secondary School One to Senior Secondary School Three level. They are certain to uncover a few world class gems of the quality of Maradona and Messi

[6] Argentina’s leading clubs like Boca Juniors, Independente, Newell Old Boys and River Plate should all be asked to part-fund the project. In return, they will have first choice when it comes to picking any of the talent that comes through

[7] Highly respected Argentine coaches like Marcelo Bielsa, Mauricio Pochetinno, Diego Simeone, José Pékerman, Eduardo Berizzo and Jorge Sampaoli should all visit at least once a year to offer coaching courses at the academy. If we do that, we will begin to uncover talent as they do in say Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Italy, England, etc

[8] Kind of like the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna which trains officers for the armies of most African nations, our Diego Maradona Football Academy should also train coaches from all over Africa for a fee. This alone should help sustain it

[9] Every year, this academy should host a Nigeria vs Argentina match, with the likes of Lionel Messi on show

[10] This academy should also recruit a network of coaches tasked with visiting every one of our 774 local government areas in search of talent. There are bound to be hundreds of Kanus and Okochas rotting away in some inaccessible dusty village in Zamfara, sone fishing island in Bayelsa or some farming hamlet in Ondo. This army of coaches should fish them out. I remember how the mechanic Muda Lawal was discovered by accident by Mandilas Lions in Lagos.

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