Sports: Politics in Nigeria, Business elsewhere

By Adebayo Abubakar

The history of sports, According to Wikipedia, dated back to the Ancient world.

The physical activities that developed into sports had early links with ritual, warfare  and entertainment.

As far back as the beginning of sports, it was related to military training.

For example, competition was used as a mean to determine, whether individuals were fit and useful for service. Team sports were used to train and to prove the capability to fight in the military and also to work together as a team (military unit).

But in Ancient Greece, which introduced formal sports, with the first Olympic Games in 776 BC, that included sports such as human and chariot races, wrestling, jumping, disk and javelin throwing, and more.

Sports also includes the display of natural and raw talent.

The display of such talent, was later reserved till the end of every farming season, during harvest, in the ancient Greece, when they celebrate, in appreciation of bumper harvest. It became a sort of massive annual festival, which culminated in what looks like an Olympic game in 776 BC.

The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896, and the man responsible for its rebirth was a Frenchman named Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who presented the idea in 1894; and two years later, in 1896, the first modern Olympics was held.

It is a quadrennial event that saw the celebration of sporting talents, which participants see as a hobby or a vocation.

People participated in sports for the fun of it and for the pride it confers on the winners. But as time went on, with the full emergence of capitalism, as a politico-economic ideology, around 19th century, everything became cimmoditized and commercialized; love, talents, and even conscience became commoditized – ommercial values now get attached to these things that were hitherto free. So Sports were not left out, especially with the influence of media and advertisement which guarantee huge sales and consequently, revenue for firms (global brands) that subscribe to it .

Ever since then, sport has become a huge business and an employer of labour, with billions of dollars involved by way of television right, endorsement for athletes, and so on and so forth.

Apart from religious organizations like the Catholic Church worldwide and Al-Haram mosque in Saudi Arabia, FIFA is reputed to be one of the ten richest Non-Governmental Organizations in the world, estimated to be around $5.72 million, the same goes for The International Olympic Committee, IOC, the International Association of Athletics Federations, IAAF among others.

Sportsmen and women like Anthony Joshua, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Husain Bolt, the Williams Sisters, Maria Sharapova, among others are worth hundreds of million of Dollars in assets, with income from their weekly wages, commercial deals with multinational companies, and investments.

Little wonder, the worth of Lionel Messi’s left leg, for instance, can write-off the foreign debts of many Third-World countries.

In the face of this economic revolution in the sporting world, Nigeria slumbers while the rest of the world flies.

The rest of the world is flying at the speed of light, because, of their approach to sports administration; hiring professional to man strategic positions in sports development, from talent-hunting through nurturing and investment, to marketing, commercial(if you prefer that language), to pay for the requisite talents needed to compete at the Highest level. Merit is the rule of the game, rather than, “Man-knows-man” that has characterised Recruitment at any level in Nigeria.

If you’re not a UEFA or FIFA-graded coach, you have no business being in the dugout for any professional club side. If you’re not a certificated Sports Administrator, you have no business being at the top echelon of the management of any professional sporting club or entity.

This is, truly, but sadly, not the case in Nigeria. Politicians do everything. Just like when we had every civilian space in Nigeria, violated by military presence. From the sales of fertilizer, to selling fuel at petrol station, during Abacha era.
Politiciams run Sports federation, instead of professionals who are trained in the business.

Political leaders use positions in the sporting industry, to settle political IOU. To them, it does not matter, how inimical such act of “leadership irresponsibility” is to national interest; no matter how damaging it is, to national sports development.

Just imagine the kind of “Russia Roulette”, politicians are playing with the destiny of our athletes, with the political undertones that characterize the appointments of national team coaches and Sports Administrator in the country.

For instance, if a Southerner leads the National Under-17 team to a competition, this year; whether he wins or loses; the next edition; it must be a Northerner that would lead, and vice versa.

Meanwhile, Sports is Business in other parts of the world, but it is politics in Nigeria. Every action is underlined by, at least, a political consideration.

Imagine how many of our youths would be taken off the street, if the Sports industry is given its needed attention and with the right approach. They would be gainfully employed and the crime rate would reduce, and insecurity, reduced to mere paper existence.

As a nation, Nigeria needs to see football beyond being a mere recreational activity or an instrument of political PR.

Sport must be given the kind of attention the “Oil and Gas” sector receives from the government, so as to maximise the country’s untapped potentials, so as to boost the country’s GDP, through earnings from the sector.

Adebayo Abubakar
Writes from Ilorin.


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