There are deliberate steps we expect to be taken to ensure things fall into places accordingly. There should be moves aimed at correcting the mistakes of the past to ensure the future is better and guaranteed. In Nigeria, sport is still considered as mere recreational activity when many other countries across the world take the sector as a big business venture.
Over the years, sponsors have turned their back on sports and federations are lamenting because the government cannot execute all their programmes. And so going forward, it is expected that the government should also encourage sponsors with tax rebate policy to make top companies embrace sports more just as there must be deliberate effort to use the 10-year Masterplan document to boost sports generally.
The Masterplan document was submitted only last year and we expect that the implementation should be taken seriously this year in order to boost the sector. Sports all over the world require huge planning as a business and in the New Year, Nigeria must embrace all that it entails to make various sports disciplines boom in the country, not just football.
We expect football that suffered so much in 2022 must be alive this year. The U-17 and U-20 teams will be out to play in the Africa Cup of Nations in the two age grades. Apart from the quest to grab World Cup tickets, Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets and the Flying Eagles must do well just as it is expected that the technical committee will have people (coaches) who will monitor them and look into possibilities of transiting them accordingly to the next levels. The Super Eagles must be up to become amongst the best on the continent and so the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers must be top notch in terms of results. Manager Jose Peseiro and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) must be on the same page to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians. There should be no automatic shirt for anyone just as there must be strict measures to instil discipline and allow merit to prevail in the camp of all national teams.
In the women’s game, the Super Falcons need a new lease of life and the promising U-20 national team should be promoted to form the nucleus of the new look Super Falcons. The talented younger ones should be given a chance to express themselves and gain enough confidence to get results in the senior national team. There must be deliberate plans to boost school/ grassroots sports as a vehicle to identify talents and create able replacements for ageing athletes. Sports Minister Sunday Dare said it was important to boost grassroots sports because of the overall future of the sector.
“We cannot continue to rely on ready-made athletes. We have various initiatives that will drive the grassroots project and we believe some of the ideas we have in place will still be implemented by the people coming after this regime. “There are plans to have younger ones mix with the experienced ones in the same camp to boost exposure and ensure we have a smooth transition. It must be deliberate and that is one thing we expect to be a template even in the next 10 years. We have many talents here and to enjoy their services, we need to plan well to get things right,” Dare said.
In the New Year, the NFF and other sports federations must be strategic in planning for the future of the athletes and the respective sports disciplines. Nigeria deserves better and that is why we expect that all efforts should be made to generally boost sports development and create an enabling environment for the private sector to contribute to the growth of sports. The sports sector is almost always not in consideration for the annual budget. The financial vote for sports is always ridiculous every year such that it can never be sufficient for two major projects in the sector.
It is important for sports federations to be all out to bring private investors to help each of the sports disciplines. The positives recorded in 2022 were mostly in athletics and a few other disciplines. A total of 29 first class athletes were in the Top 100 list in their various disciplines in their sport.
Nigeria has never had it so good and so kudos to the minister of sports, Sunday Dare, whose drive for success is huge. No doubt, 2023 brings fresh opportunities and it is expected that the federations should work towards making things even better this term. There is a need to revive school sports and grassroots events to create room for talent discovery. Many of the sports disciplines have athletes who have served for over two decades but are still in action because nothing is being done to bring in fresh talents to replace them.
This New Year, there must be a deliberate effort to embrace youth development and give them exposure to get the desired results for Nigeria. The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) elections have been held and Alhaji Habu Gumel will spend another four years at the helm. Gumel should be firm with the federations to get the very best results from them.