A former African Table Tennis Queen, Bose Kaffo, spoke to ADEKUNLE SALAMI on current state of Sports in Nigeria and the problems affecting the ping pong game. Excerpts…
Tell us about your background in sports science and your role as performance analyst in various areas.
My little experience about sport sciences is that I just live with it now. Working prematurely had helped to regain certain grounds. As an analyst, I just think about when I will be able to stand on my own. It is just driving me out of mind when I just look at our sports and could see lapses in trainings and nothing can be done to correct them. My job mainly is based on training – correction – training – competition analyses. So, I deal will a huge athletes data. These are the problems we see at grassroots, states and even national levels but there is nothing I can do about it.
At the last African Games held in Morocco, Team Nigeria emerged overall secondplaced team. Beyond the position, are you satisfied with this performance?
Yes, because it could have been worse than that if not for the individual efforts of some of the athletes. However, with what our bad preparation and poor attitude towards development, Team Nigeria did well but with a good approach and proper training, no country will be ahead of Nigeria. I am not pleased but that does not mean that the athletes under performed. I know from experience that Nigerian athletes don’t attend most competitions so we should be pleased with the overall position. Certainly, we can do better.
What are your thoughts about the state of sports generally in Nigeria
It is very bad and that is the truth. We don’t have to be sentimental about this. We lagged behind in sports because there is no development and avenue for the youths to grow and attain their potential. We are always mixing the developmental aspects of sport with technical aspects of it. We need to get the hold of developmental areas of our sports and inject performance structures. We should be thinking more of development than just servicing competitions and doing things that are not in line with growth of sports.
How can Nigeria maximize talent potentials in the country?
The first thing to do is to identify template for the age groups in various parts of the country in all the sports disciplines. We have to go all out and get sponsors to boost various sports by staging competitions for them to boost their form and to expose them in national and continental competitions. There is also need for upgrade of facilities because the athletes must be exposed to facilities that are up to date in today’s world of sports. It is also important to align all plans with the policy of the state and then with a very good welfare package to make the athletes happy. Motivation is very important in sports and it can make the athletes go extra mile to achieve results for the country.
Evaluate some of the roles you have handled for the ministry of sports. How was the experience?
I worked as an assistant coach with the national Table Tennis teams in 2007 and was in that position to the All Africa Games in Algeria. It was quite a remarkable experience because I was also an athlete at the games. After that, I worked as a consultant to racquet sports. Moreover, I worked as a performance analyst to RIO Olympic Games. I really worked with my certificate after retirement and it was quite rewarding. I dealt with diverse kind of sports and athletes from Abled bodied to athletes with disabilities. With the special sport (Paralympics athletes) we won 8 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals at Rio Olympics in 2016 and I was part of the success story.
Nigeria used to record a clean sweep in table tennis at African Games but this has changed, what could be responsible for this?
Individual differences in many ways one can think of. This is my sport and I was part of those recording clean sweep in the past and for now, I don’t know why we are having issues especially with Egypt. We can go back and get more talents exposed to compete better and be at the expected level at continental and global level. There is a need for great technical understanding and improvement in coaching at this level. The Egyptians are playing more competitive games than us so you should expect them to be better and sharper than us. With the potential we have, I am optimistic that Nigeria will bounce back but so much work will have to be done.
Look at the talents we have in table tennis and other sports today and in the past.What has changed?
The difference is that Nigeria do not have a template for transition and many of the athletes that come up early rot away without being discovered or groomed to higher level in their respective disciplines. We (Nigerians) believe in producing talents and we still bank on old athletes. Technically, there is a problem here because some sports are experience-oriented while most are not. You will need to be skillful and be technically strong. Our players are skillful and they can be unbalanced easily. Also, we there are no competitions around like before. The sponsors are not there as before. It is challenging to tap an athlete and monitor their performance over time where there are no events to follow
You were ill for close to a year, what happened and how are you now?
Yes, I was ill and had to do brain surgery. You say one year, no!. I battled with this for about four years. Thank God for life and where I am today. It can only be God. Right now, I am a member Lagos State Sports Commission and I am doing very fine.
How do you relax when you are not involved in sports?
I love reading to widen my knowledge. I read all sorts especially in other areas that are not sports. It gives me joy to read and gain more knowledge about various aspects of life. I also love music for my relaxation.
Are you married now, if not, are we expecting wedding bells soon?
(Laughs) I am not married. I must confess this is a very personal and deep question. It is too deep to answer. However, I am hoping to settle down soon. I am praying towards that.
Where do you see Nigerian sports in the next 10 years?
I am looking at our sports being dominated by a part of the country. There are only few events. We need more national events to get fresh athletes from all parts of the country in various sports. We have to spread the development and be very much proactive. Our administrators should learn to think more about the future because it is important in the long run for the country.