FROM THE GOLDMINE By Enefiok Udo-Obong
At the end of each year everyone always expect to review how well sports people have performed during the year. This is often the tradition. Obviously this year has been different but still we have individuals and groups that have helped to influence invents through their sports one way or the other. As my last write up for the year, I want to present those that deserved various honours as the year rounds up based on my non-scientific public poll.
Corporate Sponsor of the Year
The year has seen some companies step up to help sports in spite of all the problems. However in the midst of uncertainty, Aiteo has been faithful to Nigerian Football. Putting more money in the game and making sure the women are not left out. For this, they win this award clearly.
Administrator of the year
In a year where it was almost impossible to do anything there were some administrators that stood up to be counted. Francis Orbih has been incredible in lifting Badminton in Nigeria and making them very competitive in Nigeria while keeping them engaged during the pandemic with seminars and training. However for stabilizing the issues off the field and bringing so much to the game in terms of success on the field and support of it despite the internal issues inherited, Musa Kida wins marginally as the administrator of the year.
Sports Innovation of the year
In a year where everyone had to improvise to succeed, there had been a dearth of innovation especially in Nigerian Sports which had left athletes and events in limbo. However road running which seems to be growing in Nigeria still had events taking place even as the pandemic threatened all activities. One of the reasons for this was the introduction of Virtual running where everyone could take part in a race and just be monitored by a simple app on their phones. This was introduced by Bukola Olapade, the former Commissioner of Sports in Ogun State as a preparation for the Accessbank Lagos City marathon next year in case we are still in the midst of COVID -19, but was first implemented by Tayo Popoola in the Lagos Women Run this year. For this landmark break through, they share this award as 2020 sports innovators in Nigeria.
Sports Marketer of the Year
Here the winner was clear and unanimous in the poll conducted. In the best of times, getting sponsorship for popular sports like football and even the Olympics has been very difficult in Nigeria but here in the height of the pandemic, when companies are scaling down on budgets and some are just merely trying to survive, Nilayo Sports has continued to increase their sponsorship drives and support for a not too popular sports of road running by adding to their events. With the Accessbank Lagos City Marathon becoming Nigeria’s biggest sporting event annually with over a billion naira in sponsorship, it added more sponsorship to the event in Kenyan Airways. Some other events too were introduced with sponsorships running into hundreds of millions of Naira. The Remo Marathon, Ijebu Ode and the Kaduna Half Marathon. It seems Nilayo Sports led by its CEO, Bukola Olapade have the midas touch for marketing as anything they touch brings forth naira. After sharing the innovation awards, Bukola Olapade and Nilayo win this by a mile.
Sportsperson of the year
Some footballers got mention here because of the involvement in the game in Europe and their influence against social justice. Asisat Oshoala has been in incredible form for Barcelona while Odion Ighalo resurrected his winding down career with a surprise move to Manchester United in England and became an instant success as a squad player.
However his voice against social justice at the sad day on October 20 when after his side’s Champions League match in Paris, he spoke against the violence meted on peaceful protesters in Lekki Nigeria put him on a platform transcending just sports. Using the occasion to bring the voice of the oppressed to the world attention. This was noble and courageous. However the Sports person of the year is one who has continued to excel in competitions and seems our loudest claim to a medal in Tokyo next year, Odunayo Adekuoroye. The 27 year old wrestler won Gold in the African Wrestling Championship and sealed her qualification to the Olympics with magnificent performances. She is fast becoming the golden touch bearer of Nigerian Sports.
Hall of Fame
Two great footballers were nominated here. Daniel Amokachi for his appointment as a Presidential adviser and Joseph Yobo. However the award went to the Minister of Sports Sunday Dare and the Sports Industry Thematic Group of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) for their breakthrough work in creating the Nigerian Sport Industry Policy. One that would completely revolutionize sports in Nigeria both in participation and revenue when fully in operation. The impact would be felt way beyond just sports but hopefully in the national economy.
Hall of Shame
This mention (we cannot call it an award) is to one who has embarrassed us and done badly or below expectation during the year. Some mention were to the Nigeria Football Federation especially for ‘rewarding’ the mediocrity of Gernot Rohr, the Super Eagle coach with a new contract which even includes a protection fee of 2 million dollars in newspaper reports are to be believed.
Also mentioned was The League Management Company (LMC) for being unable to organize a proper league and for seeming having bumps on the way to make our league more competitive and successful on the continent.
But the Hall of Shame goes to Alhaji Shehu Gusau and his rejected Athletics Federation of Nigeria board for putting self-interest ahead of the interest of the sport. While he fights to keep his position in a board that obviously rejects him, his opposition to settlement, undemocratic decisions and his divisional stance have stunted the growth of athletics in the country. While athletes crave for support and competition, his attention has been in the national court suing to try and legitimatize his position. It has been counterproductive for athletes as a whole as there still remains uncertainty in the running of the Sport in Nigeria.