Early last month, Saturday, March 2nd, 2013, to be precise, I was one of the resource persons at the 2nd Annual Greensprings School Sports Forum, held at the school’s expansive campus in Lekki, Lagos.
Greensprings, by the way, is one of the oldest elite private schools in Lagos. They are a near-perfect example of how a school should be, with a very large compound, excellent teaching facilities and excellent play grounds for all kinds of sports including a standard football pitch, basketball court, swimming pool, etcetra.
If all was well with Nigeria’s educational system, Greensprings is a model of how all primary and secondary schools either public or private should look in terms of the environment and infrastructure. But my focus here is on the school’s sports activities.
The theme of the forum was The Role of Media in Schools Sports Development and I was asked to present the lead paper. AIT’s Mama Sport, Aisha Falode, also presented a paper in which she spoke passionately about women and sports. There were other speakers as well and a very impressive audience.
As a knowledge-sharing exercise, I plan to reproduce here in this column soon, excerpts from the paper that I presented. But first, I want to give a public commendation to the management of Greesprings Schools for their very elaborate programmes for sports. If you talk about academics and sports going hand-in-hand and moulding the truly complete child, Greensprings is quite examplary.
Just last week, the school hosted its second annual Greensprings/Kanu Football Camp which is organized in conjunction with former Super Eagles captain Nwankwo Kanu. I had planned for my son, Abdulmueez, to attend but the duration clashed with another programme involving his own school.
The highlight of the Greensprings football camp was the school’s decision to give scholarships to two talented boys from some apparently less-privileged schools to continue their education and also have an opportunity to develop their football skills at Greensprings. Musa Alli from Longford International School, Ebute-Metta, Lagos and Elvis Onyese of Iba Housing Estate Junior Secondary School, Ojo, Lagos are the two lucky boys.
Some critics might accuse Greensprings of cherry-picking but try and suggest that to Alli and Onyese’ parents or guardians who now don’t have to worry about school fees, yet have their kids not only attending one of the best schools in the country, but also having an excellent opportunity to develop their football talents and possibly become superstars in the future.
From me, all I have to say to Greensprings is well done!
Sticking with the Eaglets
TALKING about developing superstars for the future, that was the focus of my article on the Golden Eaglets last week. As expected, loads of soccer fans immediately pounced on me for allegedly “praising the team too early” following their shock 1-0 loss to Cote d’Ivoire at the on-going CAF Under-17 Championship in Morocco. When the sms bombardment wouldn’t stop, I decided to restate my confidence in the Eaglets in Complete Sports the following day. Luckily, the Eaglets responded positively and smashed Congo DR 7-0 in their next game. The sms from my critics immediately stopped coming!
One recurring refrain in the earlier messages was that it was too early to tip the Eaglets for greatness because “they had not won anything.” I want to restate here that a youth team doesn’t have to win anything before you prepare or tip them for greatness. What you need to spot is the talent, the potential, the discipline and the determination to succeed. I am convinced that the current set of Eaglets have these characteristics in abundance. That is why I’m tipping them for greatness if they are properly nurtured,
We must stop the practice of disbanding our youth teams just because they failed to win a youth tournament. These tourneys are meant only to develop the players for the senior competitions in the future. Winning a youth trophy should be the only yardstick for measuring greatness. Winning should only be a bonus while failure to win should not disrupt a properly laid-out developmental programme. Winning a youth trophy should not be an end in itself, but a means to a greater end.
Meanwhile, the Eaglets’ loss to CIV was only their first defeat in nearly 30 games since they were put together. It’s probably even good for them because, to be a true champion, you must experience the joy of winning and the pain of losing along the way. I hereby repeat that, win or lose the trophy in Morocco, I stand by my projection that these Eaglets, if properly harnessed, are destined for great things in the future.
MANCHESTER United clinched a historic 20th English League title after beating Aston Villa 3-0 with a Robin van Persie hat-trick at Old Trafford on Monday night. The title is well deserved as the Red Devils have proved once again that they are the most consistent team in the EPL.
Head-to-head and man-for-man, however, I will pick “Noisy Neighbours” Manchester City as a better team than United. As City coach Roberto Mancini correctly noted, the talent gap between the two teams is not as wide as the points gap in the league table suggests. But Mancini must take the blame for not being able to consistently guide and inspire the huge talents at his disposal. If Sir Alex Ferguson or even Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger were to handle the City team as they are, they would win the EPL by an even wider margin than this comparatively “average” but pragmatic United team has done. Well done to Sir Alex, and congrats to all Manchester United fans in Nigeria.
While United were winning the title, Liverpool’s controversial striker Luiz Suarez was making the headlines again for the wrong reasons, biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic on the arm when both teams played a 2-2 draw at Anfiled.
Everyone already knows that Suarez is both talented and controversial in equal measure but few would have expected that he would repeat his animalistic behaviour that fetched him a seven-match ban previously at Ajax Amsterdam. Suarez has apologised for his “inexcusable behaviour” while the English Professional Players’ Association have reportedly said they would assist him with “anger management counselling”.
Nigeria League in Turmoil
THE Nigeria Professional League is in turmoil again as “club owner/managers” are up in arms against the League Management Committee (LMC) led by Nduka Irabor on the league reforms being introduced by the latter. The LMC has the backing of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the ministry of sports/National Sports Commission (NSC). And since most football clubs are actually “owned” and sponsored by state governments, the NSC is reportedly trying to rally states commissioners for sports to deal with the errant “club owner/managers” so that the LMC’s reforms can sail through. The snag is that some of the “club owner/managers” are better connected politically and are more powerful in their states than their sports commissioners. In which case, only the state governor has the power to call the “club owner/manager” to order.
If NSC boss Bolaji Abdullahi has to go all the way to the state chief executives to get the renegade club managers to fall in line, he should do it. I am in full support of the league reforms in principle because I have always known that the so-called club managers are the biggest beneficiaries of the rot in the system.
Most of them collect huge annual subventions from their states that are not properly accounted for; they sell the club’s players and pocket the international transfer fees or pay themselves hefty commissions; yet they fail to meet the most basic welfare needs of their teams. While most of us are complaining year after year that the Nigerian league is dying, these club managers are laughing all the way to the bank.
Irabor’s committee is not perfect neither are all their actions totally infallible. Some of their reforms are controversial and may be hard to swallow. But these reforms must go on and only a neutral body like the LMC can carry them out. The previous “league boards” constituted by so-called “club owners” could not change the system because they were benefitting from the rot. They must not be allowed to scuttle the change that is coming.
And just to clarify the status of “club owners/managers,” the majority of them are really not “club owners” but “managers”. Most Nigerian league clubs are public property because they are financed with public funds. The real “owners” of the clubs therefore are the people of the owner-states that provide the funding for the running of these clubs. And that is you the reader, me and everybody else. We are all stakeholders in this affair.
Let’s Salute Mitchel O!
NIGERIA’s Mitchel Obi was last week elected unopposed as President of the (international sports journalists body) AIPS for Africa at the elections held in Sochi, Russia. It was a reflection of Mitchel’s popularity that three other candidates from Congo, Senegal and Morocco stepped down for him and his entire executives to be elected by consensus. By virtue of his position as president, AIPS Africa, Mitchel will now sit on the AIPS Executive Board as one of the (international) Vice Presidents.
With the Super Eagles reigning as African champions and Mitchel ruling as president of AIPS Africa, how nice would it have been had NFF president Alhaji Aminu Maigari also made it to the CAF executive committee. Not to worry, our target next time is the CAF presidency itself. Congrats, Mitchel O!