By Amaechi Agbo
Nigeria is a very unique country, blessed with both human and material resources. The country is a big player in all aspects of human endeavours – sports, music, art and culture and science. She is breaking grounds in science and inventions.
However, despite the success stories of a good number of Nigerians in different fields, little or no recognition is extended to these young ambassadors that are writing the name of the country in GOLD except you are a footballer.
Recently, the female national basketball team, the D’Tigress conquered Africa for the second time after a record breaking outing at the FIBA Afrobasket World Championship in Spain last year.
Sad to say that the D’Tigress have been abandoned and betrayed by the Federal Government, States Government, the Business Community and the Media.
Aliko Dangote, Group Managing Director, Dangote Groups; Femi Otedola, Director, Forte Oil Limited and their big and deep pocket friends have not shown up and may not show up to appreciate these glorious ambassadors.
During the last AFCON in Egypt, the big and deep pocket Nigerians were bathing the error-prone Super Eagles with dollars, they also made mouth-watering promises for goal scored and match won which even gingered the players to scoring own goals.
For instance, while the team beat South Africa and Cameroon on their route to the Semi Final where they lost against eventual AFCON winners, Algeria, Dangote promised to pay $50, 000 per a goal scored in the semi-final match; Otedola followed suit but offered $25, 000 per goal. Making a total of $75, 000 per goal promise to players who earned not less than $15, 000 each for reaching the semi-final stage.
President Buhari’s government is also cut up in this squandermania of putting Nigerian’s resources where results are not achieved. The federal government went as far as sending a high powered delegation to drum up support for the Super Eagles led by the Senate President. The delegation included all the big names in politics, finances, business and sports world. In fact, CBN governor, former Youth and Sports minister, as well as governors were part of the “almighty” delegates sent to Egypt for a jamboree tour.
Relate that to the Super Falcons, who won the last edition of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, AWCON and then juxtapose it with the female national basketball team, the D’Tigress, who recently conquered Africa after winning the Afrobasket back-to-back. Becoming the first country to do so.
That not enough, D’Tigers are already suffering the same treatment ahead of the FIBA World Championship due in China on Friday. The two basketball national teams, – D’Tigers and the D’Tigress – are currently the Africa Champions, yet they have been neglected so much so that the team, the D’Togers, cried for help and had to send SOS to the federal government before they departed for China were they last week, over the weekend, won the Peak Invitational Tournament.
It’s sickening to say the least that the media has kept quiet on the plight of the basketball family as the feats achieved by the two teams have not received the desired coverage unlike the barrage of attention given to football even when the teams performed ingloriously as it happened in the 2018 Russia World Cup and the 2019 AFCON in Egypt.
The business world in Nigeria will celebrate bronze medal won by the Super Eagles despite being paid thousands of dollars to motivate them to win the crown; unfortunately, the Basketball, which is the second most popular game in the country after football is neglected.
The 12th African Games in Morocco will soon end and the hard working sports men and women will be pushed aside as usual after the event. The sports ministry and its officials are more concerned with their pockets and personal gains against, sometimes the collective interest. Sad enough, the budgetary allocation to the Africa Games leaves much to be desired.
The ministry have complained that the total budget for the Games was not fully released. This cannot happen to football, where despite FIFA and CAF’s being in charge of almost all it takes a country to participate in a global or continental championships, will see the federal government pumping in money to the federation. Monies, more often than not, go unaccounted for.
Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry how the federal government ferried millions if not billions of Nigeria to the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt after report emerged that the players have threatened to boycott matches.
For how long would this unbridled, malicious, unjustifiable and discriminatory treatments against other sports other than football, continue?
It’s time for not just the federal government but also the Nigeria Dangotes, Otedolas, Ifeanyi Ubahs and all lovers of sports in the country to rise up and give all our athletes the desired national respect.
Whatever be the case, the federal government should lead the pack because the D’Tigress deserves national honours not just the N1 million and the ‘highly revered’ Presidential Handshake. Our national basketball teams deserve the best for putting up their best for their fatherland. And the only justifiable best is a national honour the era of ‘presidential handshake’ are over.