Sport in a new Nigeria | The Guardian Nigeria News

Whatever happens in Nigeria’s ongoing national elections, I predict the country will never be the same again. A new demographic has joined the ongoing political “war”. This is an army of irrepressible young and educated people determined to change the political landscape with their energy, vision, knowledge, new media, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

There is a realignment of old political groups and the creation of new movements in the country in a struggle for control of power. The outcome of these excitements and developments is sure to introduce a new dynamic to governance beyond May 29, 2023, when a new federal government comes to power.

It’s a generational shift, with a younger generation playing a much bigger role in government and holding them more accountable. In the sports sector, to which I belong, there are efforts to gain more recognition and move sports up the list of priorities of state and federal governments. Before and for decades, sport has occupied the lowest rung in the priority of successive governments. That needs to change.

Around the world, the power of sport to impact social, cultural and economic development is gaining momentum, and there will be no stopping them as young people clearly see its power and how it can be used effectively to transform their world.

My personal understanding of the power of sport derives from a few experiences, one or two of which I will share here as part of my humble contribution to setting an agenda for sport in the new governments.

My first experience was many years ago visiting the Amsterdam Arena, home of Ajax Amsterdam FC in Holland. The arena never sleeps. Fueled solely by private sector involvement, activities within the vast complex take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. It is one of Holland’s largest tourist destinations and an important factor in the economy of the municipality of Amsterdam.

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Despite being the home stadium of Holland’s biggest football club, the game itself is the least activity in the arena. I repeat for emphasis – the limitation to the few training hours and Ajax Amsterdam’s home games every two weeks are the least amount of activity that takes place at the Amsterdam Arena. All other activities are the “fuel” that drives the place’s profitability and keeps it running eight days a week!

Under the banner of Ajax Amsterdam FC there is everything imaginable in relation to the entertainment industry in the area driven by the football club’s supporter base – banks, arts centres, museums, restaurants, casinos, conference centres, media organisations, bars, lounges, shopping malls, Business centers, spas and gyms, hotels, betting shops and so on and so on.

This is how sport should be viewed in order to understand the extent of its power to achieve certain goals, which on the surface may or may not be related to sport.

Take Qatar and their hosting of the last World Cup. The 2022 FIFA World Cup football lasted only 29 days when over a million football fans and other tourists came to the city/state of Qatar to watch and be associated with the 64 FIFA World Cup football matches. The reality is that for a project that lasted 8 years after bidding to host, the Games were the least amount of activity in the so-called Qatar 2022.

It is a project that has taken 8 years to complete, with very tight timelines that must be met in order for the 64 games to take place over the last month.

Every sector of the economy was busy designing, constructing, and setting up everything needed to house, entertain, and employ the millions from around the world who flocked to the city—immigration, security, health, business , Transportation, Hospitality, Tourism, Banking , Engineering, Manufacturing, Entertainment etc. They all work for 7 to 8 years in a race to overcome the challenges of the fastest development project in Qatar’s history.

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The World Cup is much more than a football event. Soccer is the least activity in this whole project. There are many other examples of how sporting events are the particular delivery vehicles for a huge agenda for organizations and governments.

The Grand Slams of tennis, the Grand Prix of motor racing, the Diamond Leagues of athletics, the various football leagues and so on and so on.

Around 2002 I took part in the World Scholar Games at the University of Rhode Island in the USA. The United Nations was there to inaugurate a new, special sports unit at the UN, led by Dr. Djibril Diallo of Senegal, with a mandate to use sport around the world to advance aspects of the Millennium Development Goals, including eradicating illiteracy, poverty, hunger and disease among the world’s youth. It was the highest recognition of sport’s impact on society in history.

Even FIFA used the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to promote the United Nations’ One Goal, Education for All project, mobilizing world leaders to join the campaign to enroll children around the world who are not in school visit to the schools.

Sport is easy and readily available for countries that are able to see beneath the surface of sport as mere recreation and winning medals and trophies.

Sport needs to be seen in the context of a whole ecosystem that needs to be valued by governments, especially third world countries, who never treat it as a national priority.

The Nigerian government is to blame for this with its placement of sport in governance and national development. The achievements of film and music industries in Nigeria, where local artists have become global superstars and fueled local industry and national economy to prosper, have become a powerful elixir for the development of these industries and models for the treatment of sport in the coming become a dispensation.

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The leadership of the sports sector will be crucial as new governments take power at the local, state and federal levels. It only needs to seek and engage qualified individuals with knowledge and experience in sports administration and industry to drive a new sports industry ecosystem in Nigeria.

The era of appointing people without a solid background in sport and industry as sport commissioners and sport ministers must come to an end. Sport should be treated as a special sector among technocrats and those with strong sports backgrounds.

For this reason, as Nigerian governance enters a new era within an emerging New World Order, sport clearly needs to be more than the pedestrian attention it has previously been given.

Things have to change. Sport needs to be on the government’s list of priorities. Sport, used professionally and carefully, can be an important vehicle for change that can create employment opportunities for millions of the nation’s youth, build a healthier citizenry, participate in efforts to eradicate multiple social scourges in society, the most talented youth in different to engage in sports activities and events, build a race of athletes, sports fans and sports businessmen from all professions (law, health, education, architecture, engineering, media, etc.) and “saturate” the passionate, almost fanatic , supporters of the Sports in Nigeria with “power” that can positively change their society.

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