In this age of professionalism in sports,when sports has become one of world’s most potent weapons of social and economic mobility, the spirit of money cannot be exorcised from Nigeria’s national sports festival.
In Nigeria’s 60 years of independent existence, some of her richest and influential men and women have come from sports, especially football.
The nation’s sports may have not grown to be a huge industry with significant contributions to her GDP, yet sports has been an eye-opener to the diversities provided by native talent, beyond formal education.
For my generation, growing up was with stick, you could hardly express your sports talents freely because in the view of our parents, only the dregs of the society must be doing sports. You must be a lawyer,a doctor or an engineer.
All that has changed today. The social and economic power of sports has become so infectious and tantalising that parents now put their children in football classes, tennis and basketball clinics,to learn and to hone their talents with the aspiration of making mega bucks from sports as professionals. Even university professors do!
With this reality, Nigeria with her population and huge market, should by now have become a powerhouse of sports with its nuances of economics entrenching by the day. Sports should have become our safety valve against social and tribal conflicts. Millions of our youths would have found life in the enterprise of sports and the nation’s life would have been somewhat different from what it is today.
The vehicle for this should have been the national sports festival for this is where talents should be best signified and launched to stardom and to all that comes with it, but the power of money, regularly flexed by two or three states is killing the process,and we all watch helplessly and even applaud the dominance.
For instance, at the just concluded Edo 2020, Delta and Edo states as usual took away humongous medals far from the distance others states could reach. Delta and Edo may have been traditional and historical giants of sports in Nigeria, their permanent dominant of the sports festival is not a product of anything developmental.
Many of the athletes that wear their colours at the festival are mostly not their products. They are masters of the poaching game. Why not, athletes want where the lands are greener,so you may not blame the states.But this is a trend that has progressively blighted real sports development,hardwork and dignity.
But while Delta and Edo have consistently brandished the wads, the other states could also seek ingenious ways of funding their teams and of keeping their athletes away from the attractions of these states. That is the only way the beauty and the real values of sports could be consummated for overall national development.
Biodun Alabi is a veteran Broadcast Sports journalist with Ogun state Television