Abdullahi’s Olympics Revolution
Posted: Jul 19, 2012
I WASN’T going to write SOCCERTALK this week because I wasn’t in the mood. But with the 30th Olympic Games kicking off in London, England only in a matter of days, I knew there was no way I could skip the column at this time. I just had to write. The Olympics come around only once in four years.
Once I had made the decision, picking on a subject wasn’t difficult. I could do a historical piece on the Olympiad, dating from the inaugural games which took place in Greece in 1896. I could look at some of the legends that the games have produced such as the iconic boxer gold Mohammed Ali who won the heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 1964 games and went on to become “The Greatest” in the fistic trade; the American Carl Lewis who was the first Olympian to make a big impression on me personally when he won a record four gold medals (100m, 200m, long jump and 4x 100m relay) at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, USA; or the Australian Ian Thorpe who was the star of the 2000 Summer Games winning three gold and two silver medals in swimming; or even the Nigerian table tennis veteran Segun Toriola who will be attending a (Nigerian) record sixth Olympic Games at London 2012.
I could also decide to write about the host city London which is my favourite holiday destination for years now probably because I know my way around fairly well and it’s home away from home for me. Or, I could do an analysis of what promises to be a fierce contest for first position on the overall medals table between super powers United States of America who have won most previous games, and China who pulled out all the stops to win the last one (2008) on home soil.
There are many interesting angles from which to preview the Olympics. But I finally settled to comment on Nigeria’s minister of sports Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi’s mini Olympics revolution at the National Sports Commission (NSC).
A few weeks ago, Abdullahi dropped a bombshell when he declared that there would not be a Nigerian “Official Delegation” to London 2012. By Nigerian standards, that is a “bombshell” because such official delegations are the bread and butter of these games especially for civil servants in the ministry of sports and their hangers-on.
At times like this, all manners of lists would have been compiled by all manner of people waiting to feed fat on government largese. You will have the Presidency list, the Senate list, the House of Representatives list, the judiciary list, the auditor-general list, the accountant- general list, the Head of Service (HOS) list, the ABC list, the XYZ list, etc, etc. Each list will have names of top government officials and their spouses or concubines, whichever is applicable. They will all be flown to the event (Olympics, All Africa Games, FIFA World Cup), given free accommodation and free food and still collect full estacodes.
As far as the ministry of sports was concerned, going to games was an opportunity to reward sister ministries and other government departments for some previous favours, or to lobby them for some future favours such as budget approvals! The irony of it all is that most of these other MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) of government would also have made provision in their own budgets to attend the same games. Their top officials would therefore collect double estacodes and other allowances for the same games, at the expense of the tax-paying Nigerian public.
I have always been scandalized by the fraud and I have condemned the practice many times in this column. The last time I actually confronted an official in the ministry of sports many years ago, his response was that the Olympics were indeed a “jamboree” and that since the entourage was made up of Nigerians, there was nothing wrong with packing a crowd of joy-riders. It was another way of saying that the national cake was free for all. I disagreed vehemently with the ministry official.
You can therefore imagine my satisfaction when the present minister of sports declared that Nigeria’s entourage to this year’s Olympics will be different in composition. There will be no “Official Delegation” whose list would stretch practically from here to London and which would feature all manner of characters who have little or nothing to do with ensuring a creditable representation for Nigeria. The only “Official Delegation” will be the athletes, coaches and administrations of the sports representing Nigeria at the Games. That, in my opinion, is the way it should be.
Abdullahi said in an interview which I monitored on a sports programme, Sports Planet, that the athletes were his primary focus. He was surprised when some athletes being camped in Abuja told him that this was the first time they would be accommodated at a five-star hotel ahead of a major games. Usually, it is the officials that stay in five-star hotels and fly first or business class while the athletes stay in one-star or two-star accommodation and fly economy. Abdullahi says he wants to reverse that trend because the key actors in sports are the athletes. What a breath of fresh air.
I hope Abdullahi will see his mini-revolution through, however. I can imagine that he will be under a lot of pressure from various quarters to relax the rules and make exceptions for some “key government functionaries.”
If he succumbs to such pressure and allows even a single exception to the rule, that will damage the credibility of the entire policy.
Most “key government functionaries” are rich and comfortable enough to sponsor themselves and their spouses and concubines. If any of them wants to go and have some fun at the Olympics, they should pay their way!
Okagbare’s Stunning Win
NIGERIA’S women 100metres champion Blessing Okagbare continued the country’s impressive pre-Olympic run last weekend when she blitzed a strong field to win the 100metres at an IAAF Diamond League event at Crystal Palace, London.
Okagbare beat reigning world champion Carmelita Jeter (USA) and reigning Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) to place herself firmly as a medal prospect at the Olympics proper.
Last week, Okagbare had said also in an exclusive interview on Sports Planet that her minimum target at London 2012 was to reach the 100metres final. “I’m not promising Nigeria any medal, but if I get into the final, anything can happen on the day,” she had said. That was exactly what happened at Crystal Palace as Fraser-Pryce stumbled at the starting blocks and finished last.
If lightning strikes twice for Okagbare this time at the Olympics Stadium in East London, she would become the first fully African (not African-American) woman to win the blue ribband event. There can’t be a greater motivation for the Nigerian girl.
In sharp contrast to Okagbare’s positive performance is the sad news, also last weekend, that women’s shot-put champion Vivian Chukwuemeka and two others tested positive for banned drugs at the recent Nigerian Athletics Championship in Calabar. If she also fails a “B” sample test, Vivian could be banned from athletics for life because she’s not a first offender.
I feel bad for Vivian but is she’s guilty, she deserves the punishment. In fact, the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) should impose further sanctions to drive home its message of zero tolerance for drugs-taking.
Nigerian athletes should be made to read the classic grace-to-grass stories of the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson and the American cover girl Marion Jones. No matter how long you “shine” at the top with performance-enhancing drugs, all will be exposed one day and it is personal regret, international shame and gnashing of teeth that will be the end result.
My appeal to our London 2012 Olympics contigent is to stay completely off drugs. Whether you win any medals or not, we will appreciate you for flying the Nigerian flag and making us proud on the world stage.
D’Tigers Are The Darlings
TRUST Nigerian sports fans, they love winners any day. Who doesn’t, anyway.
Following our men’s basketball team D’Tigers’ dramatic qualification for the Olympic Games which I wrote about in this column last week, the search for basketball tickets by Nigerians living in the United Kingdom has reached fever pitch. A friend who phoned me from London said his quick rush to the London 2012 Olympics website was met with disappointment as all the basketball tickets had been sold out. He was hoping to grab a seat for the USA-Nigeria group game so he could watch the famous American NBA stars in action against D’Tigers. But it’s all a pipe dream now.
Still on D’Tigers’ qualifying feat, Toyin Ibitoye of Channels Sports pointed out to me that Nigeria were actually rated 60th in the world BEFORE the qualifying tournament in Venezuela. It was AFTER they defeated heavyweights Lithuania and Greece en route to the Olympic ticket that Nigeria’s rating rose to 21st. That makes D’Tigers’ achievement even more remarkable.
Last week, I suggested that the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) led by its debonair chairman Tijani Umar should find a means of using the current D’Tigers as role models for Nigerian youths and to promote the game here. Basketball aficionado Bode Oguntuyi has gone further to say that these players, most of whom were born and raised abroad, should be brought back home after the Olympics to kick-star the role-modelling. I can’t agree more.
Mr. Blatter, Time To Go!
JUST one word on football this week. With all the latest revelations about multi-million dollar corruption and kick-backs at the highest level of FIFA during the Joao Havelange presidency (1974-1998), current president Joseph Blatter who was Havelange’s secretary general for about two decades must have been either a saint or plain stupid not to know what was going on.
Add the Havelange scandal to the 2018/2022 World Cup bid bribery scandal which indicted our own executive committee member Dr. Amos Adamu and FIFA vice-presidents Jack Warner and Mohammed Bin-Hamman, a lot of people had concluded long ago that FIFA is corruption personified.
I believe that the only reason Blatter himself has not been indicted in all these is so that the roof doesn’t cave in on FIFA’s empire which he represents. I suspect that FIFA’s sponsors and partners cannot wait for the old fox (Blatter) to complete his current tenure so that a clean break can be made from the stinking past.
Mr. Blatter has done well for world football, but now, it’s time to go!
Dear Mumini, well done for your good work. ‘See you in SA’? Alhaji are you sure? Phew! I share in your optimism anyway. On D’Tigers, I sincerely join you in saluting them. They are worthy champs even if they don’t win the event eventually at the Olympics. We have to support them as they are serious minded. – Ahmed Okanlomo Sango-Ota, Ogun State
lHello Mumini. I’m a woman who has been watching Super Eagles since 1994 till date. I think Clemens Westerhof is the right person for the NFF technical director’s job. I also follow your Soccertalk. You’re doing a good job. Thanks. – ???
Dear Mumini. Well done for your good work. On Super Eagles Nations Cup last qualifiers, you stated that we should meet you in SA? I hope so. Bravo to D’Tigers for doing us proud. They were like the rejected stones. Its a pity it has taken Chelsea’ European success to wake Arsenal up. They are now buying mature players and even tracking every player Chelsea’s tracking – Moses, Jovetic
Dear Mumini, thanks for featuring D’ Tigers on Soccertalk. The boys really did us proud. I personally watched basketball games for the first time because of them. I equally want to applaud the zeal, commitment and patriotism displayed by the boys. I checked the bio-datas and discovered that most of the boys were born abroad. I salute their patriotism. – Anonymous.
Watchin D’Tigers grab their qualification made me happy but the Olympic draw has overshadowed my happiness. Our group is tough. I pray the good Lord will see them through at the Olympics proper.Go on D’Tigers. – Hon.B.O.C, Akure.
How are the tables turned!! The former invincibles Arsenal FC can only dream to be where Chelsea is today: European giants, THE PRIDE OF LONDON!! – Adetuberu. S
As a soccer buff and a Man U fan, no game is gonna interest me more than basketball at the Olympics now that we are going to be there. Please let your paper give us complete and full report on every match played, not just Naija matches. Soccer must play second fiddle, please. Centrespread coverage! – Itopa A, Lagos.
Bravo, Oga Mumini! Still on the TD job, in your haste to show or tell us how skillful you are, you forgot to tell us whether you are a striker ,winger or midfielder. Any how sha! we go try you. – Kehinde Olatunji, Ogba, Lagos.
lDid you see the vintage tennis from Roger Federer @ the last Wimbledon? I know you are a Rafael Nadal fan but I expected an acknowledgment of The Master even @ the age of 30. – Remi Aderounmu
Solid performance from D’Tigers. Lithuania was dazed, Greece grinded and the Dominicans dominated. USA will be disunited and many others disillusioned this summer. – Gbenga Oloyede, Lagos.
Congrats Naija. D’Tigers need our total support to make it. Mumini, please drum up more surpport for the team when the event starts. – Sanni. S. A. Lagos Island.
I join you in felicitating with D’ Tigers. I congratulate coach Ayo Bakare on this historic achievement. You need to help drum it into the ears of the powers that be that this is not the time to look for a foreign coach who will come and reap where he did not sow. – Sola Desile Esq.
Mumini you didn’t publish my text, why? I hope you know that we don’t miss your articles here in Calabar. Cheers. – Nchor Kingsley, Calabar.
I almost got emotional reading your piece about D’Tigers. Simply put, IT’S AN AWESOME FEAT. Can’t wait to see NIGERIA vs USA! – Immanuel Odeyemi (The Beat 99.9fm), Lagos.
Hi Mumini. Reading your piece on D’Tigers qualification for the Olympics, I was in tears. Who says Nigeria will not overcome her present challenge? We definitely will in Jesus Mighty name. One more thing. Please publish the day and time of each match of the D’Tigers. The God that kept Nigeria this far will help us. I agree with you, we must support them. – KB Father Ojodu, Lagos.
Mumini: Please tell Aminu Maigari, Chris Green and the NFF to leave coach John Obuh alone to choose his Under-20 team providing he does not use overaged players! Nigerian fans don’t have stomach for losing at competitions. Same advise I gave concerning Stephen Keshi/Super Eagles comes handy here!! – Rev Dr Akin Odebo JP.
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