By Rashid Balogun
This is the second part of my take on sports development, in particular swimming and football. I begin this piece with a view that swimming is not a natural event in Nigeria whereas football is believed to be so, although, that may invite strong criticism but the reality suggests to all Nigerians that cost factors impeded swimming development, nevertheless.
At about 11 years old when I became Lagos State junior athlete (under 12 in athletics) I was introduced to swimming (organized) at the (new) National Stadium, Lagos by some German Coaches who saw me somersaulting with my friends Jimoh Sumola, Fatai and Sadiq
(we were the founding gymnasts in Nigeria when it was introduced).
The German had wanted me to be a diver, so I began swimming training with them along with platform training but it all ended with my attendance of boarding secondary school and my focus changed only to athletics (the key is no organized swimming facilities around my school). Fast forward forty years later; can anyone distinguish my experience from any swimming (or diving) talents of today?
Again, talent were discovered not because a child was observed from performance of such sport but because that child showed dedication and relevant skills. It takes an expert with knowledge on what he can do to enhance that child future endeavor but the key here is that I, along with others were exposed to many sports in our (youth) days in Lagos. Is that the experience of children of today?
Obviously, World Standard swimming facilities are rare in most states in Nigeria and the sport is introduced very late and yes, many states relied on Lagos groomed over 20 (yrs. old) swimmers through their poaching agenda. Elementary schools’ children (except high net worth families) in most states have no idea how to swim or where they can find such facility to learn how, this is appalling.
Of course, there is swimming federation but the question to be asked is what is it doing? The country is persona non grata at World Stage and in Africa only the federation can tell Nigerians where the country is ranked.
Whatever the existing structure, the fact remains that it failed in all categories of effectiveness measure and it must ceased immediately. In place, should be an interim caretaker committee with the aim of setting up a registered association (the aims include transparency, accountability, etc.), hiring of a President, setting of control, promotion and liaison with local governments and Education Ministries. Federation Board elections will follow after all structures are in place.
Swimming Development strategy
Clearly, there is no plan (current or future) to move swimming to major sports category in Nigeria and that must change immediately. To do so, the country must return to foundational introductory swimming agenda. Yes, the result will be at least 8years from now (that is the country must introduce 8yr olds to swimming right now).
The country must introduce swimming in elementary schools in the same category as inter-house sports. Have the schools set-aside one day a week for swimming lesson at nearby facility. Obviously, swimming facilities must be built (if not yet available) by local governments with ministry of education assistance. Lagos State is ahead in this for whatever reason other states are lacking in this regard.
The federation must host age-graded state and national championships. Top U-12 must be engaged to train on a daily basis, given proper nutrition and allowances (transportation, etc.). Preference will be hiring of international Coaching crew (likely from China or Germany) and it may also be a good idea to send those U-12 selected to train abroad for at least two years.
Question may be asked as to what becomes of current national swimming team and I say they should be the responsibility of their various states. National Sports Commission focus should be U-17 (highest priority is U-12) as the current national team cannot deliver internationally.
As some people might say, football is a natural sport for Nigerians and others may ask how come Nigeria never wins a World Cup?
The answer will generate many responses but the commonality among those responses is ‘bad administration’.
My take is this, if everyone can agree that bad administration is the problem, then why Nigerians did nothing to reverse such perennial bad administration. Yes, few that spoke up are name-tagged as ‘football critic’.
I’ve tried to be objective several times in looking at this tagging of well-meaning individuals’ statements and finds that the concerns raised were all well founded and not really criticism. To criticise suggest an existing plan or agenda but if none exist, then such statements are concerns that must be addressed.
Does Nigeria really have any football development strategy (plan) that can be reviewed by all Nigerians? If not, then shouldn’t the country comes to reality and develop a strategy?
I have spoken severally on governance of this sport and others and it will be a disservice to repeat them here but a reminder will be adequate. The federation must be a registered association under Company and Allied Acts (CAMA) and its board make-up must be representatives of legitimate stakeholders.
Board members must be limited to two terms of three years and subject to recall by stakeholders on confidence motion. The Board must hire a President with academic qualification, police clearance, and disclosure of assets and knowledge of football (international and local). Such President actions will be supervised by the Board through its committee of experts in all areas.
The good things on governance going on now is that some stakeholders are now exercising their ‘rights’ to recall erring leaders which must be looked at a welcome development (no matter how bad their reasoning). Also, hands-off approach by the NSC is also, a good direction (does not mean NSC didn’t instigate anything).
In brief, as I’ve written several articles on this topic but I need to say this again; any club intending to register with football federation must meet a pre-condition of having a developmental team of U-17. Transfer fee from a development team must match senior team transfer fee (discouragement of poaching).
Elementary school football championships (state and National level) should commence this year as well
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