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Bala Mohammed: Nigeria handball has regained lost glory

What is going on in the camps of the Federal Road Safety handball teams? Actually the teams still remain the number one contenders in both…

What is going on in the camps of the Federal Road Safety handball teams?

Actually the teams still remain the number one contenders in both male and female leagues in Nigeria. We are the defending champions of the Premier Handball League in both male and female categories. And the new handball federation board was able to get a sponsor so we now have Prudent Energy Premier Handball League. My ladies topped the first phase held in Abuja while the male team sustained their first position until the last minute where they dropped to the third position. I am, however, optimistic that they will regain their position at the final phase. So for the past two months, I have been putting my teams in order. I don’t have to wait until the Road Safety does what they are supposed to do. The challenge with Road Safety is the same challenge with others. Everybody including the Corps Marshal is finding it very difficult. However, as leaders of various organs, we have to do our own until when things will improve. 

How many teams are taking part in the league and how many phases are the teams going through?

In all we have 23 teams, 11 male teams and 12 female teams in the Premier League. So we are now preparing for the second phase in Lagos where the points would be gathered and we shall know the winners and teams that would be relegated. There is N1m prize-money for the winners, N750,000 for runners-up and N500,000 for third place.

What is the secret behind the consistent performances of the FRSC handball teams?

Well, we have continued to enjoy unflinching support from our Corps Marshal. Whenever we are in dire need as we are at the moment, any financial request that is sent to him is approved. I mean everything. There is paucity of funds everywhere but he gives us the necessary support. There is none of our files that will go to him that he does not approve. Good enough he is very much aware of what we are doing to project the good image of the Corps. Moreover, he likes the discipline in the teams. 

Is it true that all players of the handball teams are staff of the FRSC?

I am a staff of FRSC and as a matter of fact almost all the players are staff of the corps, only few are yet to be employed. We believe with the present Corps Marshal, those who have been playing for us for a long time will be absorbed when next there is recruitment exercise. Some of the players have been playing for us for more than four years. He has promised that once there is recruitment, they will be employed.

What is your candid assessment of the present leadership of the handball federation under Samuel Ocheho?

I am happy that the new federation president is doing very well and he is enjoying the co-operation of his board members. As a matter of fact the forum of premier league coaches, which I am the chairman, has since passed a vote of confidence on him and his board. This is the kind of board we were lacking for, for a very long time. He brought us sponsorship so we need to tell the man that he is doing very well so that he will be motivated to do more for the sport. We believe people should support leaders and not pull them down. With the prevailing calm, sponsors will also know there is peace and they will continue to support the federation, even if he is not there tomorrow. 

What would you say is responsible for the successes of the present board of the handball federation?

 The president, Samuel Ocheho is a private man and the board has the required expertise and knowledge. There are so many technocrats, established businessmen and astute administrators on the board. Even the former president is on board. He is serving the present president without rancour. That is how it is suppose to be. When he is asked to go there, he goes, if he is asked to come and do this, he comes. That is leadership. In fact, if we have our way, this board would remain for the next eight years. Let them continue with this unity. I am not saying there shouldn’t be elections, but those to continue should be allowed to carry on with the good job. However, this is my personal opinion.

What lessons do you think other sports federations can learn from the present handball federation?

I want Nigerians to know that in the 80s, when General Williams was there, football learnt many things from handball. They learnt grassroots sports development from handball. As a matter of fact before the Nduka Ugabde led Eaglets conquered the world in 1985, we were already there in 1984 in Sweden and I was part of the team. That was when handball became a household name in Nigeria. Football only followed in the footsteps of handball.

You are also the assistant coach of the female national team. What is the technical crew doing to raise a formidable team?

We have got young lads that we believe we shall train and turn into top players who would bring glory to Nigerian handball. If you can remember handball was the first ball sport that represented Nigeria at the Olympics and it was the female handball team. So that is what we want to do again. 

Recently, the male national teams dominated the junior international championship held in Rwanda. What does this say about the future of the sport in Nigeria?

I am very happy that they did very well. What we need is to sustain the tempo. It shows that Nigerian football has regained its lost glory. What we need to do is to move away from petty jealousy and all other vices. Once again, Nigeria will be a force to reckon with in international handball.


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