Change Mantra in Sports: The Brazzaville Experience
By; NNOROM ONYEBUCHI
Sports have been an instrument for education, entertainment, recreation, financial alleviation and a window for fostering relationship among athletes from different countries and backgrounds. It could also improve a country’s reputation especially when an athlete performs well in international meets.
The All African Games, among other sports meets, was instituted to harness relationships, encourage friendliness and competitiveness amongst Africans. The Pythagoras theory which explicates the emergence of three major players comes to focus wherever this Game is scheduled. The concept of those who are there to win laurels; merchandise; and watch events (spectatorship) were showcased in Brazzaville, Congo. Nigeria was among the first part of this postulation.
Since the first edition of the All African Games was hosted by Congo in 1965, the Games have gone through series of dimensions. Starting from the number of competitive sports by participating countries to the nations involved in the fiesta.
There had been ten editions before the just concluded 11th edition of the All African Games hosted in Brazzaville, Congo from 4th to 19th September 2015 titled “Brazzaville 2015”. In 2003, Nigeria hosted the Games and emerged tops; logically, emerging second out of the number of countries that participated in this edition, from my perception, could be adjudged fruitful. Many may not agree with my position, this could be justified from the viewpoint that no one will accuse Nigeria this time of politicking. Even in other major sporting events like the World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, etc. Emerging tops or second position outside the host country could be celebrated more than when your country hosts and win in the face of criticism.
Nigeria garnered 147 medals at the event subdivided into 47 golds, 56 silvers and 44 bronze to emerge second behind Egypt. Although the road was rather rough and hazy but the doggedness of Team Nigeria proved the maxim “when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going.”
The present successful outing began with an address by the Director General, National Sports Commission, Mallam Alhassan Yakmut. In his speech at the Olympic Village Kintele, Brazzaville, he urged the athletes to make Nigerians proud and focus on winning lots of medals, saying Nigerians were solidly behind them. Mallam Yakmut reiterated President Muhammed Buhari’s charge to Team Nigeria that they should surpass the previous position attained in the last editions.
The Director General expressed optimism that the group of athletes representing Nigeria in Brazzaville, Congo were there to make history as the 11th edition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the games. He further admonished them to take every sport serious as the success and failure of Nigeria depends on their performance, adding that government has provided everything to encourage them to victory.
These assurances illuminated the spirits of the athletes as gymnastics and cycling which could be regarded as weakling sports opened the door to medal haul. Boxing which did not produce gold medal in 2003 when Nigeria hosted helped in the medal haul with four golds and three silvers. Consequently, the medals began to pour in like torrential rains.
The gains of this edition of the games could be attributed to “putting the round peg in a round hole”. The appointment of Mallam Alhassan Yakmut as the Director General of the National Sports Commission has been a blessing. This is a man who has been involved in active sports competition and he was a one-time captain of the National Handball Team for years. For about 25 years, he has actively been involved in sports management and he rose in ranks from sports officer to the position he occupies today. Since assumption of office, he has emphatically stated that the welfare of athletes have always been his priority.
In attesting to the qualities of the Director General, Team Nigeria General Captain, Olumide Bamiduro asserts that the initiative of Mallam Yakmut in ensuring that winning bonuses were paid before athletes depart Brazzaville, Congo was in consonance with the federal government’s change mantra and an in-depth understanding of the needs of athletes. Olumide said “for the past 20 years, the gesture exhibited by Mallam Yakmut had been the first and the best”. He added
that since he began to represent the country, a view which was corroborated by his assistant Funke Shonaike, who had featured in seven editions of the All African Games, “this edition was the first time that tournament kits and bags were made available to athletes before their departure”.
Prior to the games, the Director General was convinced that camping athletes abroad, preparatory to the games would be a scarce resource drain pipe. In line with the President’s change mantra, he believed that to get a better result from Nigeria’s athletes, training within Nigeria would serve as best alternative to shaping the athletes. Consequently, the searchlight was focused on coaches to ensure that the best would be selected resulting in the picking of the best athletes.
There is no gainsaying that the decision was a wise one. What will be required in future after this successful outing is for the government to equip our stadia with contemporary training facilities for future preparations, create competitions at local levels to search for young and budding talents and to constantly engage our coaches in capacity building so that they can be equipped with modern trends in their respective sports.
Onyebuchi is a staff of NSC Press Unit.