“Those in support of the motion, say hi.”
“Those against the motion, say nay.”
(There was silence).
“The hi’s have it.” Almost simultaneously, there followed a slight bang, as he brought down the gavel. “See you next week.”
That was the sequence of events as the “Honourable Speaker,” Chief Segun Odegbami brought to a close another episode of The Sports Parliament last week Thursday night, March 30, 2017. The closing conversation was between Odegbami and members of The Parliament of which yours truly is one. The motion in question was to determine the subject that would be discussed this week Thursday live at the studio of the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) Lagos and broadcast on the network service from . The topic we voted for was: “Who funds sports in Nigeria.”
When Odegbami invited me to be a member of The Sports Parliament early this year, I was a bit reluctant to accept the invitation because I didn’t want to get involved in a television talk-shop just for the sake of it. I was concerned about the quality of the other “parliamentarians” and the depth or lack of it that they would bring to the programme. I needn’t have worried. Odegbami had picked his team carefully…
Football Aficionado Godwin Dudu-Orumen; sports marketer extraordinaire Nkechi Obi; veteran broadcaster AbdulRahman Ibn Mohammad; sports medicine specialist and former Super Eagles physician, Dr. Akin Amos; sports marketing expert Kunle Raji; widely travelled international journalist Osasu Obayiuwana; corporate marketing professional Tunji Adeyinka; ex-international footballer and administrator Shola Akinwale; television producer Yunusa tank Abdullahi, Olympic gold medalist Enefiok Udo-Obong and yours truly, Mumini Alao.
We all are members of the parliament. As stated earlier, our speaker is the former national team captain, the versatile Segun Odegbami. At the risk of sounding immodest, it is safe to say that ours in a star-studded team. Someone actually described The Sports Parliament as parading at least 500 years of various expertises pooled together.
This rich depth of collective expertise has been aptly demonstrated since the programme started about six weeks ago. Anyone who has not been watching has been missing out on a great deal of knowledge, information and, admittedly to a lesser degree though, entertainment. The parliament is serious business.
The other issue that I worried about before accepting to join the parliament was the impact it could have on the polity. Would Nigerian sports administrators even listen to what we had to say, much less consider them for implementation? Would we not be giving unsolicited advice to unwilling officials? Would we not be wasting our time?
Even Segun Odegbami could not answer these posers satisfactorily. Obviously, he is not in government, so his influence on the officials is limited, but he did offer me a consolation: “Mumini, let us try; let’s do our own bit by offering quality insights into solving the myriads of problems facing Nigerian sports. The officials may accept or reject our suggestions, but posterity will judge us well.” I hope so, but I do hope also that the officials will consider our suggestions, too.
I was on the set last week and one of our resolutions, while discussing the aftermath of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) elections, was that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should follow the CAF and FIFA example by repealing the section in its statutes that restricts non-members or non-former members of the executive committee from running for the office of the President. Had this rule been in force before Amaju Pinnick got into office, he would not have qualified to contest! Why should he now want to keep other people out? It was such draconian laws that turned former president Issa Hayatou into a dictator in CAF. Pinnick campaigned vigorously against Hayatou. Now it’s time for him (Pinnick) to remove the log in his own eyes. Will he listen?
The other resolution was that members of the Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) which include the NTA, African Independent Television (AIT) and other local television stations should engage the new Confederation of African Football (CAF) hierachy on how to make television coverage of the Africa Cup of Nations more accessible to free-to-air (FTA) audiences across Africa. We also challenged the NFF and Nigerian TV stations to join hands to prevent reoccurrence of a situation where the Super Eagles will play an important game abroad without any arrangement for TV broadcast like it happened with the recent friendly against Senegal in London.
This week, the parliament is discussing what perhaps is the most critical issue in Nigerian sport: FUNDING. Lack of adequate funding has been established as a major reason why we can’t pay our coaches on time or pay them at all, pay footballers their allowances, prepare athletes for international competitions, organize local events, maintain sports facilities, discover and nurture new talents and do a whole lot of other important things to advance our sports. How can we change the narrative? That is the big question that the sports parliamentarians will tackle this week, on NTA Network television at . Make sure you’re watching.
Bundesliga Is Bigger Than Bayern
I HAVE taken a greater interest in the German Bundesliga in recent weeks and discovered to my pleasant surprise that it is not all about Bayern Munich and Borrusia Dortmund; or, for that matter, Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who are tied on 24 goals apiece on the goal scorers’ chart.
Bayern and Borrusia (Bayern in particular) have been so dominant in recent years that some have criticized the Bundesliga as being a one-team or two-team league. But we could also say the same of Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain.
However, a quiet revolution is actually taking place in the Bundesliga, courtesy of a club called RasenBallsport Leipzig – RB Leipzig, for short. If you have not been paying close attention to their games, start doing so from now on.
RB Leipzig reminds me of the old all-conquering Leventis United FC that set a record by winning three different divisions of the Nigerian league in quick succession in 1983, 1984 and 1985. In the case of Leipzig, the club was founded only as recently as 2009 when it bought a slot in the German Regionaliga V (5th division). The founders set an eight-year target of reaching the Bundesliga (1st division) by 2008, but they achieved that objective two years earlier in 2006. And, having reached the Bundesliga, they led the league table for the first 13 games before traditional power-house Bayern Munich (founded in 1900) finally supplanted them. Otherwise, RB Leipzig were poised to do what Leicester City did in the English Premier league last season when they won a surprise title.
The secret of RB Leipzig’s success within such a short time lies in their focused management and the deep purse of their sponsor Red Bull energy drink. Initially, they were criticized by many for spending their way to the top, but now their approval rating has improved tremendously especially in the former Eastern German city of Leipzig where they have made a positive impact on the whole city.
Last weekend, while Bayern were bombing Augsburg 6-0 in Munich, RB were equally destroying Darmstadt 4-0 in Leipziq to consolidate second place on the Bundesliga table. At this rate, Leipzig will most probably qualify for the European Champions League next season, less than 10 years after they were founded.
When they get there and start ruffling the feathers of other heavyweight clubs in Europe, remember that I told you about them first!