Sports lovers, stakeholders, administrators and sponsors should be asking the 91 Presidential candidates of the political parties contesting the 2019 election a simple question…What is your sports agenda? Perhaps a debate is needed in this regard because sports is big business and has been the nucleus of some economies in Europe.It is not often that a football club has the privilege of being hosted by a Nigerian President when the team excels in a continental competition or tournament. Not even the national team always had such luck or opportunity. We know the story of how Super Falcons came back with the African Women Championship (AWC) trophy from Cameroun only to be messed up in Abuja. The team’s head coach Florence Omagbemi was fired for not controlling his girls who went on a protest march to demand for their entitlements. The Sports Minister said, the nation never knew the girls would win the tournament….as a result there was no plans to pay them their bonuses and allowances or even host or honour them.
President Beji-Caib (Tunisian President)
I can’t even remember when a club was last hosted by a Nigerian President for winning a continental trophy. Or did former President Olusegun Obasanjo host the Peoples Elephant, Enyimba Int’l Football Club of Aba when it made history and made Nigeria proud by winning the then elusive CAF Champions League back to back in 2003 and 2004? I can’t remember….Don’t blame me if he did….It is not in our sporting culture. Sports in Nigeria is rated among the third class of sectors by our leaders who focus on defence, petroleum, works and foreign affairs among others as first class. But in Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup, we saw how Croatia President showed how important she and her country rate sports. Sports has been driving most economies of western nations. These nations see sports, education, science and technology and entertainment as A-class sectors which boost and boom their economies
Recently, 92 years old President of Tunisia Beji Caib Essebsi hosted Esperance Football Club in a colourful and elaborate ceremony for winning the CAF Champions League. The team dramatically upturned a 3-1 first leg scoreline to a 3-0 second leg result.
The President hosted the club and that boosted the courage of the players, staff, management and owner of the club. It shows how deep the government of the North African country value sports.
President Caib address Esperance FC Players
If it was here in Nigeria, someone in government will tell Mr. President that Esperance Football Club should not be hosted because the owner is not an APC or PDP member or that the club is based in the Northern or South South or Middle Belt region of the country which did not support the President’s emergence or his administration.
For me, President Essebsi should be commended for his presidential act and open show of support for sports. Little wonder Nigerian players rush to North Africa especially Tunisia to seek greener pastures. If President Essebsi could do this to a club, we can only imagine what he will do for the Cathage Eagles if they win AFCON. This is just an example of motivation and it can only propel Esperance Football Club to achieve more.
Quite a number of Nigerian players have featured for Esperance. Julius Aghahowa and Michael Eneramo are among them.
We can only hope that 2019 will usher in a new agenda for sports by the incoming government. This expectation is high especially after PDP Presidential candidate, Abubakar Atiku donated a whopping N10m to the Amputee Football Team that represented Nigeria at the Amputees World Cup in Mexico. Nigerians should demand for a sporting President come 2019.