Today, they represent, perhaps, the best examples of athletes that combined their sports with a sound education. They have become some of the most educated and most accomplished sports persons in Nigeria’s sports history with many of them having multiple degrees, and are still actively involved with tennis development in one form or the other in the United States. Coming home this new week to continue with his previous silent effort to rejuvenate the game of tennis (and by extension other sports) is Professor Sadiq Abdullahi, holder of a Phd in education in an American University, one of the greats of Nigeria’s tennis history.
Sadiq and I have been interacting very closely in the past three months and have shared invaluable ideas about how best to go about influencing and effecting genuine change in Nigerian Sports. As he visits several cities in Nigeria he will be conducting a few clinics with young tennis players including one for the tennis players of The International Sports Academy, Wasimi Orile.
I use this medium to Welcome Sadiq to the country and wish him a wonderful stay!
Akwa United – A case of reaping what they sowed!
I read reports of one of the last and decisive Globacom Premier League matches played last weekend in Gusau, between Zamfara United (playing at home) and Kaduna United. Ordinarily, before such a match everyone, except those in the know of any ‘arrangee’, would assume that Zamfara United, with a 7 goal deficit going into the last match of the season, were bound for relegation being one of the last four teams languishing at the bottom of the league table. But these are surely not ordinary times and the owners of the two teams seemingly knew better than most what was ‘arranged’ to happen last Saturday. Incredulously, Zamfara United, not only defeated Kaduna United, one of the stronger teams in the Premier league, but also scored two goals more than the seven goals required mathematically to get them out of ‘jail’! The match ended in a scandalous 9-0 whitewash of Kaduna United. The match had ‘fix’ written all over it. The greater impact of the shocking result is not that Zamfara United escaped relegation but that Akwa United, playing elsewhere on that day, were swept away by the Gusau tidal wave of relegation.
The score-line was unbelievable and as a result everyone outside of Gusau screamed ‘foul’! The result was too good to be true. Many reasoned there must have been some connivance of some sort between the two Northern teams. And in the absence of solid evidence to prove the contrary the Premier League board could not do anything about the result. But then, everyone was quick to draw people’s attention to Akwa Ibom United’s controversial promotion gimic during the preceding season. On that occasion they were accused of conniving with their neighbouring Calabar United team to win the decisive promotion match by a whopping 13 goals, the number of goals needed to achieve that feat! Today, with the precedent they had set in gaining promotion, no one is willing to fight their cause and call for an investigation. The team has fallen victim of its own device! In short what comes around goes around they must have found out the hard way last week.
Both incidents, although unproven and unpunished for corrupt practise, have set ugly standards and another bad precedent for the Globacom Premier League. Such scandalous matches will affect the credibility of the league itself and diminish its authenticity. In sharp contrast to the last matches of the English Premier league that ended with nail-biting matches and deserved wins and losses, the Nigerian Premier league now leaves a sour taste in the mouth! One commentator was quick to point out that the owners of Kaduna United and Zamfara United are both members of the Board of the Premier league, which makes the whole matter even worse to contemplate!
The Super Eagles must win today!
Rades, venue of this weekend’s decisive World Cup qualifying match between Tunisia and Nigeria, is a heavenly venue that will hold a hellish match! The venue and the weather situation in Rades would suit Nigeria’s Europe-based players who play week-in-week-out in more hostile cold weather! The vociferous home support the Tunisians would definitely enjoy would fire Nigeria’s Super Eagles and make them prove once again that they perform best under pressure. Unfortunately, due to visa problems in Nigeria, the Super Eagles’ 5-day preparation for the match did not go as smoothly as planned. A key figure in the Eagles, considered an essential part of the team for the match, Joseph Yobo, could not train with the team and had to come, according to newspaper report, to join the team in Tunis only two days ago – hardly enough time for blending of a player with a team he has not played with since the start of the year!