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Godfrey Gaiya: Delay in reopening contact sports was unnecessary

A sports administrator and former Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Sports, Hon. Godfrey Gaiya, has said the long period of time it took the…

A sports administrator and former Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Sports, Hon. Godfrey Gaiya, has said the long period of time it took the government to lift restriction on all contact sports was unnecessary.

In this interview with Daily Trust Sports, the former lawmaker from Kaduna State said the sports ministry didn’t do enough to ensure that the government reopens contact sports in time.

The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 just announced re-opening of contact sports. Would you say the decision was taken timely?

The truth is that even at the height of COVID-19, contact sports like football had resumed unofficially.

Street football and local competitions were played by the youths across the country.

So personally, resumption of contact sports was long overdue.

Contact sports should have re-opened step by step.

For instance, we could have said football should resume without spectators in the arenas.

Or better still, there should have been periodic checking and testing of all players and officials before matches are played.

But to say completely that there should be no contact sports because of COVID-19, there was no sincerity in it.

If you could reopen markets, schools, clubs and bars, I didn’t understand why football that takes only 22 players in a reasonable space remained closed.

This is my candid take on this matter.

Most Nigerians are of the view that the minister of sports didn’t do enough to have the government reopen contact sports. Do you have a contrary opinion?

Actually, it is not as if I want to be harsh on the present minister but thus far, he has spoken words much more than actions.

He is good at saying things that he will never do.

He is making promises that will never come to pass.

He is good at playing politics with sports. And sports and politics shouldn’t be mixed.

You cannot just play politics because you are the minister.

He should allow technocrats who know much about sports to advise him properly.

Sports administration is not Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or messages you post left right and centre.

Since the beginning of this year, sports was grounded. Sports cannot be the only victim of COVID-19.

We cannot cry more than the bereaved. Even in China where the virus originated, sports is back.

So I want to add my voice to the opinion that the minister didn’t do enough to convince the government to reopen contact sports in time.

What would you say were the side effects of the delay in reopening of sports?

The delay has really thrown up some challenges.

Are you surprised that at the moment, the youths are the ready-made tools for any kind of protests?

It is because they don’t have anything to look forward to or be positively engaged in.

We should not forget that sports provide opportunities for the youths to put their energies to positive use.

In addition, in other places where sports is business, closing the sector for over 10 months would have dire consequences.

Sponsors and advertisers will automatically be out of business.

Even in Nigeria, the key actors in the sector have passed through a lot of hardship.

What is your take on the recent friendly matches the Super Eagles played against Algeria and Tunisia?

It is true that friendly matches are avenues for trying new players but when you make it a norm that whenever there is a friendly match, you bring in six to seven new players, you are also missing the point that when you try new players and discover some, you try and build a team out of the ones you have discovered.

But if your friendly matches are a continuous trial of new players, then at the end of the day, you won’t have a team at all.

As it is, we don’t have a Super Eagles team.

If the senior national team is to pay tomorrow, even the coach will be at a loss as to who to pick.

In every civilised football culture, there is always a standing eleven.

You know that these are my first eleven players and when you bring in new players, you are doing so to beef some specific areas where you have noticed lapses in the past.

When you keep bringing in new players, you are not helping the team because there will be no team culture, there will be no team spirit or pattern.

You will just be playing. I am sad to say that in the past three years, I have not seen a true Super Eagles team.


It is said sports in Nigeria is not moving in the right direction. What would you say is the way forward?

For sports in Nigeria to develop, sports federations should be encouraged to be autonomous. Government should be concerned more with provision of physical infrastructure.

Government should not be deeply involved with funding the sector. Once sports federations are independent of government, there will be no unnecessary interference.

I give you one example. The present Athletic Federation of Nigeria under Engineer Ibrahim Gusau has said we want to be autonomous, leave us alone but the ministry is saying no, we won’t let you go.

You are operating under Nigeria and we are going to fund you. But the sport federation is saying, no we don’t need your money.

What we need is only autonomy for us to run the federation in line with international best practices.

We want to source our own money for our activities.

When we want to represent Nigeria, we would let you know but the sports ministry is vehemently opposed to it.

They are afraid that if the federations are truly autonomous, they may not have grounds to go to the government to ask for money.

Ideally, no sports federation should be seen as a parastatal under the ministry of sports.

So the way forward is for sports federations to be truly autonomous while the government provides the enabling environment for the sector to thrive.

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