Legends Of Our Era
Posted: Feb 04, 2011
I AM DETERMINED to resume this column on a positive and cheery note, so I have decided to write about some of the legends of world sport that are being made in this era even as we all look on.
While I was on break, Cameroun’s Samuel Eto’O Fils was named as African Footballer of the Year for a record fourth time; Argentina’s Lionel Messi became the first winner of the unified FIFA Ballon d’Or World Player of the Year award; and just last weekend, Barcelona Football Club equalled a 50-year-old winning record set by arch rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Primera Liga in 1960/61, and now look set to set a new one when (not “if”) they win their next game this weekend.
The next time you watch Eto’O, Messi and Barcelona play, please watch their every move with rapt attention because you are lucky that history is being made right before your own koro-koro eyes. Fifty years ago, the stars of world football were the Peles and Alfredo Di Stefanos, while in Africa we grew up reading about a certain Laurent Poukou, the highest goalscorer in Africa Cup of Nations history for nearly 40 years.
Fifty years from now, the names that will be remembered as legends of this era are the Eto’Os and Messis because of their outstanding talents and their remarkable achievements.
We should count ourselves blessed to be around to see these footballers write history. Eto’O is already arguably the best African footballer that ever lived and he has some outstanding statistics and a chestful of trophies and laurels to back up this rating. Messi is inexorably on the way to becoming the world’s greatest individual football artiste, better than even his Argentine compatriot, the great Diego Maradona. And, as we saw during the vote for the last World Footballer of the Year award when he (Messi) beat Spanish World Cup kings Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez to the big prize, Messi’s failure to win a World Cup trophy with Argentina will remove nothing from his status as a legend of our era.
Remarkably, it’s not only in football that the present era is throwing up legends of world sport. In cycling, American Lance Armstrong’s record seven consecutive Tour de France titles will take some time to be equalled, much less surpassed. In cricket, Sachin Tendulkar of India is now the greatest bat-man of all time and he’s still scoring runs with reckless abandon. (Watch out for Sachin at the next ICC Cricket World Cup starting February 19 in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh).
In golf , Tiger Woods, despite his recent slump to world number three following a better forgotten 2010, is already a legend of the sport with 14 major tournament titles, while pursuing Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors. In tennis, Roger Federer’s 16 grand slam titles mean that he is the greatest player of all time. And, in athletics, I am sure we all can’t wait to see the exhuberant Jamaican Usain Bolt attempt to lower his own world and Olympic records in 100 and 200 metres probably at next year’s Olympic Games in London.
The foregoing are just few of the many legends being born or made in different sport disciplines across the world even as I write. However, it’s not every era that produces icons and legends, so those of us sports aficionados at this time should simply count ourselves lucky to be around to witness the making of history. Any time these legends are in action, don’t miss it.
If we are still alive 50 years from now, we will be able to tell our children, grand-children or great-grand-children that we saw the great Samuel Eto’O lift the Champions League back-to-back with Barcelona and Inter Milan; that we saw the great Lionel Messi dribble six people and score a fabulous goal for Barcelona; that we were there when Usain Bolt fired his imaginary gun salute after setting another world record.
But what if our great grand-children then ask why we didn’t have any Nigerians amongst the world legends of our era? That should be a food for thought for our sports administrators in particular, and all of us in general. But then, we can point to Africa’s second most decorated footballer behind Samuel Eto’O, Nwankwo Kanu.
The Making of Legends
lTHE BOOK I am reading currently is the authobiography of former world tennis number one player, Andre Agassi. Titled “OPEN,” it is a frank and very open narration of how a tennis great was incubated, born and made.
Agassi’s father was a native of Iran who migrated to America, changed his name to Mike and married a beautiful American lady, Elizabeth, in Chicago. Even before Andre was born, the father predicted that his son would be the greatest tennis player in the world. (NOTE: BEFORE HE WAS BORN!)
On arrival, the first items baby Andre was handed after his mother’s breast were a tennis racquet and a tennis ball. When his father was looking for a house, the major criteria was not the comfort or the safety of the property, but whether it had a backyard big enough to build a tennis court. By the time Andre was nine years old, he was already winning local tennis tournaments. He would go on to become the world’s number one tennis player and a legend of the game. Just as his father had predicted.
Andre Agassi’s story has a familiar ring about it. It is similar to the story of the Williams Sisters, Venus and Serena who were also born and fed with tennis by their father Richard. It is similar to the story of Tiger Woods who started playing golf at the age of two, taught initially by his father, Earl. Same for Lewis Hamilton whose father Anthony, worked several shifts so he could buy his son a mini racing car when Lewis was just six years or so. Hamilton would go on to become Formula One champion three years ago.
Last month, Messi, Iniesta and Xavi were named as the best three players in the world for 2010. The three of them arrived the Barcelona youth academy aged 13, 12 and 11 years respectively.
The lesson from this narration is that talent is in-born but legends are made. Agassi, the Williams Sisters, Hamilton and Messi may have natural talent for their respective sports, but without deliberate and visionary planning and coaching from young ages, they may never have realised their potential and become the very best in their disciplines.
Sport-loving Nigerian parents must take a cue from the moving stories of these sportmen and women and introduce their children to sport early in life. Unfortunately for me, my youngest child, Mariam, is 10 years old and I fear that it may already be too late for me to properly groom her in table tennis if I want her to become a legend in the sport. But I will still try!
The Federal Ministry of Sports/National Sports Commission should articulate a comprehensive programme that will encourage parents to introduce their children to sport early on. A key component of that programme will be the provision of play-grounds in all corners of the country.
This is the type of programme that should occupy the minds of our sports administrators rather than the self-centered politicking and grandiose budgeting for participation in competitions that our athletes are ill-prepared for.
If we inaugurate a true grassroot sports development policy as opposed to merely paying lip-service to it, it is only a matter of time before we started producing legends like Andre Aggasi and Lionel Messi.
lINEVITABLY, I must say a word about the still on-going legal tussles in Nigerian football.
The title of my article before going on break in November last year was “Court of Arbitration for Nigeria (CAN)” in which I lamented the many cases that had been dragged before the Court for Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland with many more en route. I concluded by praying that the legal issues would have been resolved before my resumption, but we now have even more cases in court now than before I left.
It is unfortunate that rather than concentrating on strategies to reverse our sliding sports fortunes and encouraging the athletes to strive for execellence, our sports administrators are perpetually engulfed in so much power-play that we now have to spend energy and additional resources to set up a Nigeria Court of Arbitration for Sports.
Two months after I joked sarcastically with the idea, the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) has decided that, that is the next most important item for sport development in Nigeria. Okay o!
Anyway, a common parlance says there can’t be development and progress without peace. If this NOC Court will bring sanity to our sports administration, let’s have it. Barrister Adokie Amiesimaka who has been nominated to head the court (or draft the modalities for establishing it) is well equipped both academically and morally. He is a man of proven integrity and his antecedents suggest that he will be incorruptible. However, those very traits may disqualify him in the reckoning of other people as a final arbiter of sports disputes in Nigeria. And we may still get bogged down by perpetual injuctions at the civil courts.
All the same, let’s wait and see how Adokie’s Court will fare in the weeks and months ahead. Already, there are potential landmark cases in wait for some landmark judgements. Coooourt!
Today on Complete Sports
Most Recent Stories
- » Amata Makes IAAF Diamond League Debut In New York (0 comments)
- » 3SC Appoint Busari Substantive Coach (0 comments)
- » Kenya Replace Oliech With Agogo For Eagles Clash (0 comments)
- » Kenya Begin Preparation For Eagles Clash Monday (0 comments)
- » Yobo Relishes Turkish Cup Win (0 comments)
- » Ugbade: Eaglets'll Start W/Cup Preparation In June (0 comments)
- » Lewis Hamilton Pimps Helmet With Cartoon Of Girlfriend And Dog For Monaco Grand Prix (0 comments)
There are no comments