Recently, elections into twenty one sports federations were conducted and those who clinched leadership positions are upbeat that despite the intolerable decay in their sports, they would cleanse all the rot and chart new courses for development. While most of the sports federations had consensus candidates emerged as presidents, the story with the handball federation was different as it was a keenly contested battle between the eventual winner Dauda Yusuf and Barrister Mark Jacob.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Trustsports the newly elected President of the Handball Federation of Nigeria said there is every need to swing into action without further delay because the embarrassing state of the game in the country must be addressed and curative measures taken without the procrastination of the past. “I know the enormity of the challenges before us and we are prepared to face squarely these challenges because the game of handball must be returned to its enviable position among Nigerian sports.
“I want to confirm to you that handball in Nigeria is dead. It is no longer what it used to be. Nigeria is no longer doing well in the sport and I want to tell you that it is because of the failure of past administrators to carry out the necessary developmental programmes”. He observed.
Yusuf decried the decline in handball as very unfortunate because in the past, the game competed favourably with football which presently enjoys tremendous fellowship ahead of all other sports in the country.
“In the past, handball went shoulder to shoulder with football. The sport enjoyed massive support from Nigerian sports fans but all of a sudden, the story has changed. While football has continued to make appreciable impact, the same cannot be said of handball which I told you earlier is dead and needs to be resuscitated without further delay”.
And to achieve his vision he said emphasis must be laid on grassroots handball development. According to him, the youths of Nigeria are highly talented in the game but they need developmental programmes to actualize their dreams.
“We are going back to the catch them young policy. This board will lay greater emphasis on grassroots handball development so that the budding talents at that level would be identified early and nurtured to stardom. This will be possible only if we have handball academies in place. Therefore, one of our major concerns would be the establishment of academies where youths who are talented in the game would be given necessary training that could enhance their skills and make them great handball players in future. The future of the game in Nigeria is in our youths and this is one fact we cannot ignore.
“We want to revamp the game and ensure that Nigeria reclaims its lost glory by organising age grade handball competitions, strengthening the national league, organising national open championships at the zonal and national levels. After we must have consolidated the game at home, we would then begin to think of how best to pursue and re-capture the position of Nigeria in West Africa, the whole of Africa and the world. We would participate actively in the politics of the game on the continent so that some of the decisions which in the past did not favour us would be averted” he stressed.
The president said that to achieve such lofty heights, all relevant stakeholders would be taken along as the federation alone will not be able to shoulder the responsibility of resuscitating the game. He therefore stressed on the need for aggressive marketing so that the game will no longer depend on government funding for execution of its programmes.
“We are going to bring on board all the relevant stakeholders ranging from fans of the sport, the players, professionals, promoters, coaches, corporate organisations and relevant government authorities to make individual and collective contributions to the revival of the game.
“In doing this we would seriously consider the issue of sponsorship for our programmes. May be in the past, everything depended on government but this is the trend we want to halt immediately. Handball has the potentials to be self sustaining. If properly packaged, we do not need to be going cap in hand to government because the game has the capacity to attract corporate sponsors.
“But to attract such sponsors, there is need for us to show transparency and the desired changes in the administration of the sport. This is exactly what we want to do. Every sponsor wants to deal with a body which is transparently honest and would be able to judiciously appropriate whatever funds that is made available to it”
Yusuf reiterated that he offered to serve the game because he had taken time to study and understand the possible solutions to the problems which have continued the threatened its existence. According to him, the problems of the game are many but with the zeal and commitment on the part of his colleagues on the board, the game would certainly see a new dawn.
“ Like I keep saying, I have a clear vision for handball in Nigeria because I took time to study the situation on ground and realized that if something urgent is not done to arrest the continuous decline, there will come a time that nobody will spare his time to discuss handball in Nigeria. The glamour associated with the game has faded and those of us saddled with the responsibility of engendering the necessary changes must be up and doing. As we make sacrifices to bring the desired changes in the sport, those who have meaningful contributions to make should not sit on the fence” he demanded.