Sports in a loaded, challenging New Year

The New Year 2018 is a very challenging year for the sports sector.

This is because many of the competitions to be competed for by the country’s athletes need proper planning, adequate funding and good preparations.

We are aware that the country’s sports administrators are used to late preparations which, over the years, have affected the country’s fortunes in continental and global competitions. We hereby charge the Federal Government to direct the Ministry of Sports to steer the ship of the sector better in the New Year.

The Africa Nation Football Championship (CHAN), a tournament meant for homebased footballers, began at the weekend in Morocco with Nigeria among the 16 countries competing for honours.

The preparation for this tournament was well below average as the national team only took part in one international friendly against Cameroon just four days to the start of the tournament.

The best outing of the Eagles has been the bronze medal won at the tournament under late coach Stephen Keshi in South Africa three years ago. This time, the task before the Eagles, led by Coach Salisu Yusuf, is a tough one, especially because the country is yet to win the tournament.

We are aware of the good tidings in the league in terms of sponsorship, branding and the quest to bring the fans back to various stadia in Nigeria. The CHAN is the best way to evaluate the country’s standard in the round leather game.

We expect the League Management Company to monitor the domestic league better this time to guarantee security, fair play and ensure the better side wins, no matter the venue.

Because there are many other competitions this year, we expect the Ministry of Sports and the respective federations to delegate responsibilities and be ready to multitask. The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is guilty of not delegating roles.

Some of the board members have accused the President, Amaju Pinnick, and a few members of running the federation without carrying others along. This has to change.

For example, the Africa Women’s Championship takes place later this year just as the FIFA U-20 World Cup is billed for France. We urge the NFF to also show interest in the continental club competitions with Plateau United and MFM playing in the CAF Champions League while Enyimba of Aba and Akwa United are to feature in the CAF Confederations Cup.

Nigerian teams have not done well in recent time and this year might, again, be the same because the preparations of these teams have not suggested they are ready to go all the way. No doubt, the big one is the FIFA World Cup which takes place between June 14 and July 15 with Super Eagles participating in Group D along with Croatia, Iceland and Argentina.

We believe the Manager, Gernot Rohr, is performing well so far with the team, but the administrative and logistic issues must be good enough for the team to excel.

The Eagles must be prepared to compete well and play in the last four stage of the mundial. We say enough of second round exit.

The technical committee and the board members should come up with action to be prosecuted every month till June. The 90 minutes display of a football team is about the work put in by all concerned over a period of time. Again, the Commonwealth Games comes up in April in Australia.

Some athletes are in camp, but the bulk of the country’s prospective medalists are in various parts abroad.

For example, wrestler Odunayo Adejuoroye travelled to the United States on her own for training in the past two months, while table tennis star, Aruna Quadri, has been all over Europe playing in different tournaments ranked by the international body of the sport.

The preparation for the event taking place in Australia has not been encouraging because the grade A athletes deserve grants that will enable them to plan better.

The technical men of the respective sports discipline should also be well monitored to do the right thing for the country to get the desired results.

We also expect the Ministry of Sports to prepare well for the Youth Olympics billed for Argentina in October where the cream of athletes for the future could emerge. Before then, Asaba, Delta State, will host the Africa Senior Athletics Championship.

This event is crucial because of the declining fortunes of the country in athletics.

The AFN should prepare well with athletes abroad and promising ones in the country for the country to excel. We make bold to say achieving results in some of all the events highlighted and more depends largely on good planning and hard work. Half measures will not be good enough and government must be ready to also provide funds where and when necessary.

Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, promised that President Muhammadu Buhari will be involved in sponsorship drive to bring money to the sector. Dalung must match words with action for Nigerian athletes to be adequately motivated and prepared for the various events ahead in 2018.

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