After a year characterized by in-fighting and bickering in many of the sports federations, Nigerians are eager to experience peace in sports especially because the year is loaded with many top-class sports events.

First, sports ministry will have to work with the government of Edo State on a regular basis to ensure adequate planning for the 2020 National Sports Festival billed for Benin. The time is so short because for an Olympic year, the competition will have to take place early before May. Who are the elite athletes representing the country in Tokyo 2020 and how are they going to be monitored and motivated for the games? Grants for preparations can start from this year with the top athletes. The up and coming ones expected to join the top athletes will need to be nurtured from now. Olympic Games competition is not an event to be attended with six or three months’ preparation.

The World Athletics Championship and the All Africa Games are billed to take place in Doha, Qatar and Rabat, Morocco respectively. These are huge events that could help national athletes to ultimately prepare for Tokyo 2020 and there should be a plan to gradually prepare for the big games to avoid going for a mere jamboree. Nigeria should be competing to be in the overall top three bracket at the All Africa Games and this involves many other sports disciplines like wrestling, judo, taekwondo, table tennis, swimming, gymnastics, handball, volleyball, tennis, basketball etc. This is a total package and it requires huge work from the ministry and all the respective federations.

For the sport many Nigerians love, football, the year is also loaded. Super Falcons will be competing at the World Cup after winning the African title for the 9th time in Ghana last December. We charge the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to work hard and ensure the ladies compete keenly with other top nations in the World. Nigeria is yet to make impact at the global stage and we implore the NFF to start with the forthcoming tournament in France.

We are aware that in most cases funding and planning are key issues affecting the country’s athletes in their quest to get good results for the country. Nigerians are not used to the culture of planning. Rather than getting it right with adequate planning from the start, the country is used to what is called fire brigade approach to so many aspects of life. We are used to rushing preparation generally.

The New Year 2019 is loaded with so many events and the Ministry of Sports will have to urgently plan with the respective federations to ensure we have a smooth run-in into these events. The list is so long such that one might not be able to enumerate all the competitions.

We are aware the age grade teams are also busy in 2019. The African tournaments of the U-17 and U-20 teams will take place just as the FIFA World Cup for these events will also be staged in 2019. The aim of these events is not winning but to produce quality players who can gradually take over in the senior national teams of respective FIFA-member countries.

The Africa Nations Cup is billed for June for the very first time and after missing out in two previous editions, the Eagles are back in the mix. We are happy to know that the NFF is working towards winning the tournament. This is another big one not only for the NFF but the ministry of sports. The NFF is not fully independent yet and funding has been a major setback in the operations of the football body. For example, the staff of the NFF are being owed salaries of about five months and the federation is expected to prosecute various programmes with officials that are not motivated.

We believe Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, has done well so far but Nations Cup tournament is another ball game entirely. There should be proper preparation for the Super Eagles to excel. The young ones like Samuel Kalu, Samuel Chukwueze and Victor Oshimen should be properly integrated into the senior fold.

Deliberate attempt should be made to ensure sports federations stage national events to keep athletes in shape. Some sports federations are yet to have one tournament in three years and this is bad. Sponsors should be brought in to boost the preparation of the athletes and the federation in general. Planning is most crucial for Nigeria to effectively participate in these events in the New Year 2019.

The ministry can set up monitoring team to boost the smooth running of these events. The NFF will have to shake off the current impasse in various fronts to ensure smooth operations of the federation. Time is crucial and much work behind the scene will have to be done if the country is to record the successes expected in these tournaments in 2019.

Funding is very crucial to boost results expected while proper planning is required from all the federations to boost the successes of the national teams. We seek deliberate plan to get it right at various levels in 2019 sports.

A New Telegraph Editorial

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