Nigerians love sports. All kinds of sports. Soccer. Track and field. Basketball. You name it; they love it. Nigerians are also good at playing sports. There is no greater proof of this than the number of Nigerians playing each sport at the international professional leagues. I do not mean Diaspora born Nigerians, but the home grown kind. Christian Okoye, Olajuwon etc of the 80's and 90's were all born and bred in Nigeria before finding fortune in football (American variety) and basketball (American invention). Neither of these men learned the rudiments of his sport seriously in Nigeria but each had developed the proper athletic attitude and determination in Nigeria before venturing abroad.
With the above as background I can state unequivocally that sports talent abounds in Nigeria. I can also state with equal confidence that the coaching talents abound in Nigeria. These points are important to make because we are or should be preparing for 2016/2020 Olympics and 2014/2018 World soccer games. The time to start preparing is now although 2014 World soccer may be too late already.
There are three components to sports' success: talent, coaching and administration. I have posited that talents abound and gave as example the number of Nigerian players abroad. Now to the proof that coaching talents exist let us explore what we know. Highly paid coaches in the international sports world are more like finishing teachers and schools. The heavy lifting was done in the primary schools, secondary schools, and colleges. It was in these places that athletes were discovered; given the fundamentals of competition; and sent out to the finishing schools. Harvard University brags about the brilliance of her graduates, but if you really want to know the secret one must go to the history of the students they recruit. Most often these students were stand outs in both primary and secondary schools where they learned to study hard for long periods. So it is with Nigerian athletes. The coaches who developed them in primary schools and in secondary schools are the real geniuses not the Real Madrid coach.
And this is where the Nigerian preparation for the 2014 – 2020 international sports competitions should start. And start now. If history is any guide I speculate that sometime in 2014, say around March, Nigeria would be looking for a miracle worker from Europe to take over a rag tag sports team and expect the miracle worker to turn the team into a world class team. It has not worked and will never work.
Nigeria should in the next couple of months before this year ends settle on Nigeria based coaches for both the Olympics and World Cup Soccer games. The Country will give the coaches wide mandates to recruit, train and motivate the players and bring them to world class standards. The country would make clear what the goals are and how those goals will be measured and compensated if achieved.
The country would then move to the owner's box and hands off the recruitment, training, and motivation to the hired coaches with the message "call us if you need help." There would be no tying of the coaches hands with such ropes as national character standards; or contributions to the political parties; or invitation to join clubs. Unless the coach calls for help Nigeria would assume the coaches are OK until the first review period is reached.
When I say Nigeria I do not mean the Jonathan Administration. That body should care less if any team is fielded or not; if the fielded team won or lost; if the entire teams' last names are Aduba from Oji River in Enugu state and none from Ekiti or from Sokoto. This government would not even care if stadia are built beyond the promise to lease land to whoever wants to build one at the fair market value for such land.
The government's other promise would be limited to providing infrastructure (roads, water, power, etc to and around the stadia). Let the local communities via the LG deal with these issues. Let the wealthy men and women, who have capital form clubs; Let the wealthy ones form corporations to build the stadia and lease them to the clubs. The only involvement of the governments would be in establishing sports commissions whose sole purpose would be the regulation of activities.
There is money to be made in sports in Nigeria, let the government allow individuals to make the money.
With the coaches hired and given broad mandates, government would create a suitable environment for athletes and coaches to reach the objectives established such as advanced coaching courses abroad when not available locally, attendance to international conferences to join in establishing the rules. Referees should also be afforded such opportunities.
All these items could be classified under sports administration. It is in this area that talents are lacking. Management is a learned skill and Nigerians can be trained to acquire this skill.
So what have I just said?
Nigeria has a gold mine of athletic talents. Nigeria has a truck load of good coaches. Nigerians love sports. Nigeria should therefore recruit and train these athletes and coaches and charge them with being competitive in the 2014-2020 Olympics and World Cup soccer matches. The time to start is now and should involve cooperation between the government, the private sector and the ordinary Nigerian people.
The people to do all these abound in Nigeria now.
It will be stupid to wait for the last six months before the competition to roam the world in search of miracle workers.
They do not exist.
But if we insist, one con man or woman, would come around and take our money.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
September 2, 2012