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Archive for August 20th, 2008

IF WE WIN GOLD…

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
As far as I am concerned and I am sure many Nigerians will share this opinion, if the Samson Siasia led Dream Team IV beats Argentina in the finals of the men’s football event at the ongoing Olympics on Saturday and win Gold, Nigeria would have emerged ‘overall’ winner of the Beijing Olympics.
For many Nigerians, China, America and the likes could rake in all the medals there is to win in all other sports but give us the football Gold and we are satisfied. Victory at the Saturday finals will be the only good thing to remember about the 29th Olympiad and would serve to if nothing else raise the spirit of a heart-broken nation.
Yesterday’s victory over the surprise semi-finalists Belgium was celebrated all over the country as though we had won the Gold. At 11.00am, Government business paused and even after the match the joy the goal margin brought to the heart of the people made it impossible for any thing meaningful official activity to hold. Taxi drivers, okada men discussed the match and though I didn’t visit any, I was sure there would have been free drinks in some beer parlours around town.
Foot ball Gold on Saturday will serve to wipe our tears of what has been without mincing words a disaster. It was something we all saw coming with the very poor preparation of athletes’, the continuous rancor and bickering, the stories of all sorts of scandals and even the rather funny tale of non release of branded kits to the athletes. We watched as our boxers were beaten blue and Black with some barely surviving their bouts without as much as scoring a point. Our female soccer teams the not so Super Falcons slumped on three occasions, scoring one goal (a penalty) and leaving the Olympics without a single point. Our table tennis players shared a similar fate and we all some how kept believing that some thing good will come out of the tack and field events.
When the track and field events started, we watched as our very best sprinters struggled to the finish line long after the likes of Usain Bolt of Jamaica were already walking off the tracks. The athlete in the green kit was always sixth seventh or last. At a point it became not just shameful but also irritating. Personally, I began to wonder if this our athletes had in them the remotest zeal to win.
I often take few moments to wonder how our large (very large) delegation of estacode hunting Government and party men feel being in Beijing with the lack luster outing of our athletes and the fact that even by a miracle they would have no eight Gold medals to hand over to the guy in Aso Rock like they had promised when they were leaving. Surely, they wouldn’t be feeling as bad as we are because, the trip had nothing in the first place to do with the success of the Team Nigeria but as scramble to increase the value of their bank accounts.
But why should this be so? Why should Nigeria, so large a country go to the Olympics and fail to win a medal when other African countries including her tiny neighbor Togo had? Why should it just be foot ball that we are hoping will salvage our image?
We seem not to be aware of the existence of many other Olympic games like kayak, rowing, shooting, fencing and the likes which I am confident our people can perform well in. We don’t even hear of these games in Nigeria talk more of knowing how to play them. Yet, it is someone’s responsibility to supervise sports development in Nigeria. I know of one popular name-Amos Adamu- whose responsibility I think this is. I wish to ask, what sports have we developed in the last twenty years?
There are obviously many questions that might never find answers until we began to have a different idea of sports management and do away with unproductive elements around our sports industry. Until then-which doesn’t seem like any time soon-let us console our selves with the exploits of the Siasia boys and pray that they repeat yesterdays outstanding performance on Saturday so that our National anthem can at least rent the Beijing air. That would be to me and a whole lot of others an ‘overall’ victory at the games.
One big lesson to draw from this however is that; if you fail to prepare, you should prepare to fail. Full stop.
Go Eagles.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
nzeifedigbo@yahoo.com

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