The Rio 2016 Olympics is over and once again Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy has underperformed. Why? It’s simple really: No support.
Our athletes fund their training and work their way to competitions with little or no support from the government. But the blame isn’t just the government’s; we are also guilty of limiting the potentials of our gold-medal-worthy athletes. Their self-esteem and drive run low as we, the general public, do not take enough interest in athletes, our ambassadors.
Football is a national religion so it’s well funded – at least compared to other sports. It will be terrible, if not blasphemous, not to give to the work of holy football. So it’s rather unsurprising that they won a medal. But even the Dream Team’s trip to Rio wasn’t without hiccups. Delta Airlines (an advertisement stunt, no doubt) and a rather philanthropic Japanese plastic surgeon had to step in to their rescue.
There is so much talent that we, as a nation, are trampling upon. There is quite literally no reason why Nigeria can’t compete in every single category, why we shouldn’t top the medals board.
Don’t let other countries snatch our talent. Think about the joy you have when you see a Nigerian name on the results table for winning a race or match in a championship. Now imagine the disappointment when you discover he or she represented another country. To be honest, I don’t blame them for competing under another flag. They are better paid and have a greater chance of development.
There’s only so much a sportsperson can do on their own. We need to lift them up with funds, adequate training facilities and praise. Celebrate them. We have this terrible habit of talking about them only when they do well; but even when they fail, encourage them and push them to do better. Invest in sports and give people jobs, give them the opportunity to travel the world, boost their spirits and watch them win.
By the way, do look out for our awesome weightlifters in the Rio 2016 Paralympics starting in September!