The year 2014 holds surely means a whole lot to sport lovers in general and Nigerians in particular. It is no longer in doubt that nothing binds Nigerians more than sports. It is one factor that has united us as a people irrespective of our divergent ethno cultural and religious backgrounds that has torn us apart for so long.
Whenever there is a major sports tournament in any part of the world and Nigeria is represented there, political happenings as well as religious events take a back seat as we get deeply involved from all corners of the station to the performance of our worthy ambassadors at the tournament. We cheer, jeer but most importantly savour the beauty of the tournament and often ?lose it? if we are fortunate to become champions of the tournament.
This is one major reason why I am passionate about the indivisible status of our dear nation in this year 2014 despite the happenings that seems to often confuse a bit. The year 2014 is one year that has a lot of sporting competitions loaded in it and the flag of Nigeria will be hoisted in different continents all across the world from Africa to South America, Europe and many more.
However, while we anticipate favourable results in these competitions, let us be realistic enough to admit that without adequate preparations, we must not delude ourselves to think laurels or medals would accompany us back home.
One of the sporting competitions slated for the year 2014 is the Commonwealth games which Nigeria as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations would be a participant in the games. The commonwealth often shares similarities to the Olympics however on a ?lesser note? due to the fact that only nations colonized by the British Empire can participate.
For a nation that has produced Olympic medalists in the likes of Chioma Ajunwa, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, The late Sunday Bada, Falilat Ogunkoya and other notable athletes like The Ezinwa brothers, Deji Aliu, Soji Fasuba, Gloria Anozie among many others, the sudden decline in performance of our athletes gives one cause to worry. All of a sudden, we have become a nation that is hugely dependent upon one athlete to bring home a medal.
The recent showing of our athletes at the last IAAF World Athletics Championships last year was nothing to write home about. Our medals came from one athlete who dared to thread where super humans walk as a result of state sponsorships. The memory of Blessing Okagbare giving all credit to God, her coach and her state governor without the mention of the sporting association showed that a lot is still not well.
While we hope that better steps would be taken this time around to forestall a repeat of such poor showing, indications that strong that we might even witness a worse showing in the commonwealth games billed for Scotland later in the year.
The Technical Director of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Navy Commodore, Omatseye Nesiama, in a chat revealed that lack of funding will likely derail the federation?s preparation forthcoming the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. He said the federation is now bankrupt to continue with its preparation for the 2014 edition of the quadrennial championship scheduled July 23 in Glasgow.
?The only thing that is actually affecting us is funds because to keep the athletes in camp, you need funds and the funds that we got was just enough for the conditioning period.
?Now that we are going into specifics, I have discussed with the performance director and national performance director. The National Sports Commission (NSC) is also involved; I have discussed with the Director General and the Minister of sports. They are willing to support us further; that is been worked out right now.
?So, once that is done and the budget is approved they (athletes) will be admitted into the performance system and from there the performance system will take care of them (athletes).
?At least once that is done, I think, they (athletes) will come back to camp,?? he said.
Going by this assertion, it is glaring that just a handful of likely representatives are currently being camped and prepared for the games. One begins to wonder how they can perform against the likes of Usain Bolt whose country is ?unfortunately? a part of the commonwealth.
A coach with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Yusuf Ali, who also spoke on the preparation of Nigerian athletes ahead of the games, said the nation?s athletics contingent to 2014 Commonwealth Games needs more preparation to if they must excel at the games. He joined the call for proper funding to enable athletes stay in shape ahead of the games.
He revealed that various camping programmes have been drawn up to ensure that our athletes are well trained to do well at the games but stated that without funding, all plans will eventually come to naught.
A further visit to the Nigeria Boxing Federation revealed a similar scenario. In a chat with the secretary-general, Tunde Laguda, the highly placed official lamented the improper funding being meted to the body. He appealed for sponsorship to facilitate its programmes for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, billed for July 23 to Aug. 3.
He decried the lack of fundings which has crippled the plans of the body as its camping programme for the month of January was suspended due to lack of funds to execute the project. He said all the build-up events for January were unattended to and there is nothing currently on ground to put the boxers in the mood for the games. For a nation that has produced the first African World Heavyweight Champion among other great champions, a dismal showing at the commonwealth games stares at us in the face except we hasten the release of funds for our athletes to return to camp..
According to him, skills cannot be acquired without going through a competitive stage fight, where boxers can size-up themselves, fist-to-fist.
Nigerians expect a good showing at the commonwealth games but with the issues of poor funding, late preparation and no camping for majority of our athletes, it is almost impossible to wish for the best.