Need To Reinvigorate Nigeria’s Sports Sector


The faltering performance of Nigeria’s sporting teams at continental and international levels of late has raised the need for concerted efforts to return the nation back to glory ways.
The downward trend is particularly noticeable in results posted by all categories of the national football teams in the last few years.
Gone are the days when Nigeria was a powerhouse in football particularly in the African continent and even on the world stage.
Gradually, the national teams are becoming shadows of the past.
For example in the last one year, Nigerians have watched in pains and consternation how their teams ignominiously crashed out from one tournament to the other. It has been a streak of defeats Nigerians were never used to having.
In the last three decades the nation’s Under 17 team, the Golden Eaglets, virtually ruled the world, winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup a record five times. But they have apparently lost the bearing when they failed in the just concluded 20I9 edition of the championship held in Brazil.
Equally, the under-20 national side, the Flying Eagles, were eliminated as early as in the second round of the FIFA U-20 World held in Poland in May this year. The most embarrassing aspect of it was that Nigeria was bundled out by Senegal.
Undoubtedly, the poorest performance was posted by the nation’s under-23 team that usually represents Nigeria at the Olympics. The team failed to qualify from the African stage. That means Nigeria will not feature in the 2020 Olympics football event. It is ironically that Nigeria which won the event in 1996 and was runners-up in 2008 will be conspicuously absent this time around.
Neither has the Super Eagles fared better following their semi-final loss to Algeria in the 2019 African Cup of Nations held in Egypt. Also adding to the spate of disappointment is the fact that Nigeria has failed to qualify for the next edition of African Nations Championship (CHAN) intended for home based players.
Apart from football, it is the same story in other sports especially in athletics where we can no longer produce world class materials. But once upon a time Nigeria had top class athletes like Innocent Egbunike in 400m, Mary Onyiali in 100m, Faliat Ogbunkoya in 200m, Utitofon Uko in I00m and many others who left their footprints in the sands of time.
The litany of Nigeria’s failures has cast a pall on the sports sector.
We should no longer sit back and take it for granted that success will drop on our laps without working for it.  It should not be lost on Nigerians that the glories of the past were achieved through hard work and not as birthright.
As s nation of over 200million population, Nigeria is indeed blessed with abundant talented men and women capable of winning laurels if properly harnessed
There is need to return to the drawing board to learn how we got it right in the past. How come that the 1994 team, arguably, the best squad Nigeria ever had, was motley of foreign and home based players? Most of them were first groomed at home before going abroad. For example Daniel Amokachi, Rashidi Yekini, Austin Eguaevon and others first played for the Super Eagles while still with the Nigerian league and yet achieved good results.
When Stephen Keshi won the African Cup of Nations in 2013, his team was a blend of foreign & home based players. There seems today an over reliance on foreign based players at the expense of looking inward. In addition the Nigerian Professional Football League must be developed to become a reservoir of talents for the Super Eagles.
 Therefore sports administrators should henceforth draw up realistic programmes to bring Nigeria back to winning ways. For example Nigeria should have target goals such as a time frame of what to achieve in sports and work assiduously towards achieving them. It will not be out of place for Nigeria to target a semi-final spot in 2026 World Cup Finals or winning the 2021 edition of the African Cup of Nations and having specific medal hauls in the Olympics.
There must be conscious efforts to draw up a national sports development program that must involve all the three tiers of government and corporate bodies.
Sports, as a socioeconomic development factor, can no longer be left to chance as it is at the moment.
Now is time to reinvigorate the Nigeria’s sports sector.

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