Sports development in Nigeria: Prospects, challenges and way forward

By Uchenna Oluchi Eze

Sports is a vital and dependable weapon for all kinds of battles; it is today’s greater shelter for national and international unity. According to (Yazid 2006), Sports development refers to the gradual increase, attainment, and advancement of sports from low-level strata to a higher level or with due cognizance and consideration of the indices that enhance the realization and actualisation of sports development.

These policies include; sports policy, sports personnel, sports program (training and competition), funding, facilities, and sponsorship.  Sports have become an important aspect of Nigerian culture so much that the interest in and popularity of sports have affected us in political, social, economic, and educational aspects of our lives, yet, it is not developed to the level it should have, hence it has become so important to talk about it.

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In the words of Amuchie, (1999) sports are a mirror of society. It showcases how people live, work think, and play and as well serves as a barometer of a nation’s progress and civilization. It is understood to be one of the social services that nations of the world provide for their citizens and for such services to flourish, there must be a laid down philosophy and policy. But the problem is that here in Nigeria; it’s almost impossible to cause for the leaders to adhere to this.

In the modern world, the success and failure of any sports team are often attributed to the philosophy and competencies of the coaches. Coaches are expected to design quality programs for the players or athletes, assess and understand camping grounds and strategies to achieve that, and organize friendlies that can help them in national and international competitions. It is common knowledge today that the attainment of world-class status in sports is a strong reflection of the development objective of a country. These successes have a direct connection with the indices of sports development which may include;

Sports policy: this is the guidelines or action plan for the development and management of sports. This policy will help a nation in measuring its sports might against those of other nations of the world to establish a respectable position in the sporting community of the world. Coming to Nigeria, there are no stipulated policies for both the players and the coaches, and therefore it is very difficult to even measure the strength of our sport to others.

Funding: One of the things that bring about success to a nation, especially in sports is funding. So many sports activities need serious funding to be able to thrive. Here in Nigeria, our local football league is suffering seriously because there is no adequate money to sponsor them in so many competitions they are supposed to feature in. In swimming, the league is as good as dead with so many talents waiting for whom to sponsor them.Since 2017, Nigeria has not featured in any swimming competitions as a result of poor funding. Most times when Nigerians go for such competitions, it must be from their efforts which are not supposed to be.

Tribalism and Nepotism:  As a multi-ethnic nation, tribalism is a huge factor in the sports development of this country. So many talents are left unharnessed because they are not from the preferred tribes and this has greatly affected sports development especially football. Since Nigeria won the AFCON in 2013, it’s been difficult to even get to the quarter-finals of any competition because so many people who are supposed to have retired are still there because of their tribe. In the just concluded world cup in Qatar, Nigeria failed to qualify because we had a terrible team, even in women’s football, this is gradually coming into play, and if not stopped, will do us great harm.

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Non-developmental strategy: Every great nation has a process of doing things. When you come to football, we have different stages ranging from school sports to the junior team and finally to the senior or national team. These teams are been handled by different people and when ready, are been transmitted to the senior team. Here in Nigeria, such groups exist, but because we do not have any developmental strategy, such talents get wasted at the end of the day or even go to other countries where they will showcase their talents. This factor has dealt with Nigeria as many of our players are now playing for other countries while we can’t even qualify for the world cup or even CHAN.

FUNDING: The importance of providing adequate funds for sports programs cannot be over-emphasized; this is because as Bucher (1979) stated, the services that are involved such as recruitment and training of personnel, purchase of equipment, construction of standard facilities, transportation and care of athletes all require a large sum of money. Writing specifically about sports programs, Zeiglar (1968), maintained that it is an area of higher expenses and adequate funding is necessary if goals are to be achieved. Adequate funding is essential for effective sports development as enunciated by authorities like Levin (1972).

SPONSORSHIP: Sponsorship is the lifeblood of sports. In this day and age, there exists a symbiotic relationship between sports and their sponsors. It is a relationship/partnership that plays to the relative strengths of the two parties and provides each with a handsome reward. For example, football, boxing, and tennis are visual entertainment at the highest level. All over the world sports thrive on sponsorship from corporate organizations and wealthy individuals.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION

It is praiseworthy that Nigeria occasionally achieves stunning victories in international and national competitive sports. This is only the tip of the iceberg in the nation’s intended sports development goals, as the success to date has only been in a few sports. The 1989 National Sports Development Policy and the Vision 2020 Sports Development Initiative both allude to the country’s goal. Although policy objectives appear to be extremely clear, associated activities do not appear to be entirely geared toward achieving our goals. This may help to explain the discrepancy between stated goals and actual accomplishments for sports development. The following recommendations will be offered in light of the aforementioned conclusion: Changes are inevitable but not always accepted, mimicking the sport.

For instance, only football in Nigeria, where there are currently roughly 28 sports associations under the ministry of sports, has legislation and a clearly defined policy, to the detriment of other sports. Contrary to industrialized nations like Britain, America, Australia, and Germany, which have all-encompassing policies and legislation, this may be the cost of all other sports combined. Nevertheless, despite the government’s commitment to promoting sports, it cannot fulfil its mandate unless sports management professionals are appointed to oversee the industry.

Finally, there is a need for a state of emergency to be declared in our sports sector.

Lastly, a road map for sports development needs to be articulated, and a long-term sustainability plan should be put in place. There is also a need for a bill to strengthen sports administration in Nigeria send to the National assembly. Nigeria’s sports development will greatly improve with proper policy guidelines, legal support, and good leadership.

Reference

Amuchie F.A. Problems and Prospects of Sports Growth and Development in Nigeria’s Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria. An unpublished paper presented at a Seminar organized by the National Institute for Sports, 1992.

Amuchie F.A.The Role of Napher. SD towards the Growth and Development of Sports in Nigeria Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow; Journal of the Nigeria Association for Physical Health Education, Recreation, Sports and Dance; Special edition, 1999.

Audu M.D. Management of Sports for National and International Honours: Paper presented at the first Sport Seminar for Games Masters in Kaduna State, 1997.

Bucher A. Foundation of Physical Education, Edn 8, The C.V. Mosby Publishing Company, Saint Louise, 1979.

Federal Government of Nigeria, National Sports Development Policy, Lagos, 1989.

Federal Government of Nigeria, Vision 2020 Report, Abuja, 1997.

Irabor N. The Media and Sports Development: A Paper Presented at Sports African Forum in Lagos March 8th – 14th, 2000.

Venkateswarlu K. Strategies for Sports Development: A Vision for 2010, Paper Presented to the Committee on Development of Sports for 2010, 1997.

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