Repositioning Sports in Southwest
THE dwindled fortunes of sports in the Southwest Nigeria have continued to be of great concern to all lovers of sports in the region.
THE region, one of the most respected sports zone in Nigeria has become a ghost of itself with sports facilities at its lowest ebbs. Southwest, a beacon of hope in sports had produced great footballers like, Thunder Balogun, Segun Odegbami, Haruna Ilerika, Muda Lawal, Ademola Adesina, Fatai Atere, Joseph Babatunde Fatuga and athletes like Deji Aliu, Sunday Bada, Olusoji Fasuba, Falilat Ogunsanya, Aruna Quadri, Segun Toriola, Funke Oshonaike, Mary Akinyemi, Lawrence Adegbehingbe, Miracle Adeyanju and several others but today is a shadow of itself.
APART from the obsolete sports facilities, sports men and women in the region are not well taken care of, making them seek greener pastures in other neighbouring states. Many indeed have left the country since their expectations cannot be met..
FOOTBALL fortune has dwindled as clubs like Stationary Stores, Abiola Babes, Ikorodu Football Club, Railway Football Club, Water Corporation, ECN and Leventis United had all gone into extinction.
TODAY the National teams hardly contain names of atheletes from the region due to poor visibility and performance. This is a far cry from what obtained in the past when they could not be ignored.
THE surviving clubs like Shooting Stars Football Club, Ibadan and Sunshine Stars are today going through a turbulent period. 3sc for example have been relegated to the lower league while Sunshine Stars for two sessions is battling with relegation for the seasons.
Athletes in the region are not better off due to the excruciating conditions, which they have been forced to train. Sports, a major lever of taking one youths off the streets and even earning them income have been relegated to the background in the region.
IN real terms, sports generally in the region along with the circumstances surrounding it, is a sad commentary.
IN FACT, the state of sports in the region underscores the yawning disconnect between the state governments and the governed in terms of priority and needs.
SPORT critics blamed the situation on the door steps of state governors who they believe see sports as an important and wasteful. But all over the world, sports have become a veritable tool to lift youths out of poverty, as well as multi-billion dollar industry that has helped many youths to change their status in life.
MANY Sports Stars like George Weah, Mike Tyson, Taribo West, Anthony Joshua, Manny Pacquiao, Usain Bolt and several others may not have become success stories but for sports which gave them their enviable status today. The former world heavy weight boxing champion, Anthony Joshua was once jailed in Britain, but was reformed, transformed into a useful boxing champion through sports today.
IT is therefore our opinion that governments in the Southwest should give sports its pride of place as youths should be engaged in sports and sporting events that can make them useful in the society.
ALSO, poor preparation of athletes for sporting competitions is also a factor. This has made athletes to leave the zone in droves to other states in the country where sports development is taken serious.
The dwindling investment in sports equipment and facilities have brought the zone disgrace in National competitions as atheletes compete under unfavourable conditions to train. instances abound where basic allowances are not paid to them until a protest is carried out. The region for several years has failed to organise a proper regional sporting festival where talents can be identified, developed and nurtured like it was in the past.
EXPENDITURE on sports within the region has gone down considerably. Political thugs today are making fortunes more than sports men and women. All over the world, sports generate fortunes, the more money invested, the more yield and revenue it would bring. Our state governments should therefore increase budget for sports development in the zone.
WE recommend Inter schools, grassroot sports and football competition should be revived to tap raw talents that abound in the zone. Our sports administration should go back to the grassroots, where untapped talents are wasting away.
scouts should be sent to all nooks and crannies of the southwest to fish out hidden talents. Provision of playgrounds in schools and recreational centres should also be revived so that, youths can engage in sports.
IT is therefore expected that sports will grow in the southwest when all stakeholders take their rightful roles. Political administrators within the zone must redefine their vision to take sports to dizzying heights that has produced Olympic stars like Fatima Yusuf and Lawrence Adegbehingbe. Sports administration within the zone has not been accorded top priority hence the poor results being recorded by a zone that had been a foremost contender in the country.