FROM THE GOLDMINE BY Enefiok Udo-Obong
It was nineteenth century Australian Soldier, John Monsah, that said ‘No man is a hero in his own country’. This simply in different words tells us what we all say that a prophet is not recognized in his home country. And a recent piece by one of these heroes, Mr Segun Odegbami (no introductions necessary) made me ponder this once more.
In his very enlightening article “The forgotten heroes of December 12, 1976 – Race against time!”published in some newspapers, Mr Odegbami recalled how history was made 44 years ago as a group of young men won Nigeria her first continental title in Football. He was a part of that group of course as his team, the IICC Shooting Stars Football Club, against all odds, defeated Tonnere Kalala FC of Cameroon, complete with the legendary Roger Miller, 4-2 on aggregates to win the Cup Winners Cup for Nigeria.
The article raises some fundamental issues in our sports and also sends a pointer to a grave sad story in our existence as a country. The big issue raised was how we as a nation recognize our heroes and treat them.
We have numerous people that have made us evolve and grow as a country in different fields of work and it is our responsibility to recognize them and remember them so that the future ones would see a reason to strive to be made relevant. In sports, we have had great game changers in the field of play and as administrators at all levels. From grassroots coaches, to games masters to athletes. Even those at school levels may have changed the course and future of how education was served.
Mr Odegbami used his words to expose the names of some almost forgotten heroes of that great Shooting Stars team. Best Ogedegbe, Samuel Ojebode (captain), Joseph Appiah, Dauda Adepoju, Sam Abossey, Folorunsho Gambari, Kehinde Jeyifous, Mudashiru Lawal, Adekunle Awesu, Adeleye Abai and Moses Otolorin (All deceased). And amongst those still alive, Zion Ogunfeyimi, Amusa Adisa, Idowu Otubusen, Segun Adelakun, Nathaniel Adewole, Kofi Ashante, Phillip Boamah and Segun Odegbami himself. He also brings to forth the names of the great coaches, Joseph Ladipo (Jossy Lad) and Rafiu Salami (both of blessed memory). These are heroes in Nigeria and many names we may have forgotten or do not recognize. It is sad indeed that this is a story in almost all sports and has spanned since independence and even before.
We have people that have changed the face of our sports, that have brought us honour and glory, that have been trailblazers in doing extra ordinary things in extra ordinary conditions and yet we seem to forget them as the season passes. If they are lucky (like our Winter Olympic Bobsleigh Team) they get recognition for a short period but are then forgotten. People neither remember their names nor do they remember the impact of their achievements.
A few sports historians and some journalists have published books of our sporting history. Sometimes these are written in general terms and do not contain names of every individual that has sacrificed for his sports or sometimes just a mere report on the story and results of the endeavours. A sportsman loves recognition. They crave appreciation. When they have spent hours in the sun or gym preparing, the least they want is to feel appreciated. No amount of money can compensate for those times spent training, but a simple recognition goes a long way. That is why years of hard work will be replaced by a broad smile when given a simple medal…no matter the colour.
This is why it is time to call for a befitting National Sports Museum. One whose edifice will speak loudly and as eloquently as our achievements have on the field of play. One that would be a source of inspiration to all sportsmen and a point of pride to all Nigerians. One that would be also be a tourist attraction and a great revenue generator to help the causes of sports in our country. One where EVERY person to have represented Nigeria in great competitions will have their names casted on stone (ala Hollywood stars style).
It is time to preserve the memory of our sports for generations to come.
The Museum should not be a room or just a building but an establishment and a core of our sporting development. A place that would house permanent and temporary exhibits relating to our sporting history and development as a nation. We should place artifacts, statues and pictures in their thousands there. We do not need to reinvent the wheel, we can learn from the template of the Olympic Museum in Switzerland to see how this is developed and sustained.
Mr Segun Odegbami, who should be one of the foremost beneficiaries of a Sporting Museum as this based on his unrivalled achievements as an athlete, administrator and role model, made a very compelling case albeit unknowingly for a sporting museum. His article was entertaining with a wabbling mix of contrasting emotions that brought smiles, tears and pride to its reader, however ended the great piece with a worrisome statement that does not help our cause in our quest for national unity. He said that he hopes “the governments and people of the five states that made up Western State at the time that IICC Shooting Stars FC represented and brought honour to the global Yoruba race, will think, come out to do something, anything, to help, to support, to remember, to celebrate, or even appreciate all those heroes as they wane and fade in their race against TIME!”
Here I disagree sir, you should hope the government of NIGERIA help the heroes that brought pride to NIGERIA…Not the Yoruba Race. We are a nation and we preach Unity. The great players of IICC Shooting Stars represented Nigeria in the competition and not a socio-cultural section or race. And our Sports Museum must say so.