At the weekend, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, commended President Muhammadu Buhari and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for reopening football and team sports behind closed doors in line with COVID-19 guidelines.
National Coordinator of PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, had on Thursday announced the reopening of sports without fans under the close supervision of the sports ministry and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
Overall, it is disturbing that the restart being experienced in other parts of the world including Africa is yet to reach Nigeria. Sad enough, the requirements for the restart are yet to be met. Testing of footballers or generally athletes, is the very first step and it has not been done.
The Federal Government last month gave approval for the return of non-contact sports like badminton, tennis, table tennis, shooting, volleyball etc. but athletes are still in limbo on what next to do. Already some of the athletes are complaining about the country’s preparations for the 2021 Olympic Games slated for Tokyo in Japan.
One of the athletes said: “The world has moved on and we are still in limbo. I wonder how we are going to compete with people who are enjoying the best of facilities everyday even during lockdown. Now after lockdown, we still cannot train or engage in competitive event to prepare for the Olympic Games. “COVID-19 has ruined the lives and careers of many people. Many of us were in top form for Tokyo 2020 but it was postponed till next year and now we cannot even prepare well for the event.
This is a very sad development. The authorities should think about how best to embrace the protocols so we could go on with our lives.” Only on Thursday, Head Coach of Kano Pillars, Ibrahim Musa, cried out over the delay in football restart, saying that it will affect the teams playing continental games. He argued that football and other sports have moved on in Africa and Nigeria must rise up.
We commend the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for the proposed friendly games slated for Austria against Cote D Ivoire on October 9th and Tunisia on October 13th, but we charge the federation to also work on the restart protocols for the domestic league. We make bold to say that the preparation for the Olympic Games requires massive planning to put the athletes in global competitive level.
The Ministry of Sports should double efforts to get the athletes in shape in their respective sports disciplines, especially those of them still looking for tickets to compete at the Olympic Games. Basketball male and female requires special attention because they won the tickets while football failed to win any.
The crisis in athletics federation must be dealt with to enable the country to get the best from its track and field representatives at the games. Tobi Amusan and Divine Oduduru must be encouraged to do well. Aruna Quadri deserves support just as Odunayo Adekuoroye and Blessing Oborodudu should be aided to boost the country’s medal chances.
Our medal hopefuls should be monitored as the games draw near. We acknowledge that the state of sports all over the world is scary due to the effects of COVID-19 pandemic which has ravaged various parts of the globe in a massive way. Many cases were recorded in China, USA, Germany, Spain, England, France, Brazil, South Africa etc. Brazil currently is having a tough time as other countries including China are recording reduction in cases with gradual normalcy returning.
Clearly, life is going back to normal in many of these countries that have recorded many deaths and frightening cases. China is back to full normalcy while other countries are adjusting back to life with the observation of protocols to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. It was a delight that football returned after over three months break in Germany, Spain, England and Italy.
The league was suspended in March and it returned July with full protocols of avoiding the spread of coronavirus. Currently, the US Open Tennis, a Grand Slam Tennis event, is taking place at Flushing Meadows in the United States just as the basketball is taking place in the NBA, motor sports is ongoing and boxing is alive again at the highest level with the recent top bouts that took place just as Anthony Joshua is billed to defend his title on December 12.
In Nigeria, the football league was ended with the controversial Point Per Goal style which is causing problem between the federation and Rivers United who are challenging the decision of placing Enyimba in second position based on head-tohead rule.
Rivers are yet to play in Port Harcourt as at the time the decision was taken and so the ticket to Confederation Cup was handed to the team instead of the CAF Champions League ticket. We expect the authorities to speed up the process in various ways to get the country’s athletes back into action.
The domestic league is suffering just as the athletes warming up for the Olympics are crying. A deliberate action should be taken to ensure more actions prevail than words.