By Sedara Oluwadara
Sports and education go together for the development of the mind and body.
The combination of sports and education is a viable tool in ensuring that students are properly developed.
School Sports especially inter-house sports competition is an avenue for talent hunting.
l recall with nostalgia that there were unity cup competitions being played amongst secondary schools nationwide, intercollegiate competitions which was like mini-olympic and many other competitions.
Many footballers and athletes who represented Nigeria in international competitions were scouted during tournaments.
The likes of late Stephen Keshi, Henry Nwosu at St Finbarrs’ and Segun Odegbami at The Polytechnic, Ibadan among others were products of school sports and they succeeded because they were given opportunities to excel in sports while in school. These great footballers were already part of the national teams even while in school.
It is not common among post-primary Schools in Nigeria in recent times to engage in inter-house sports Competition which from time immemorial remained the reservoirs for discovery, nurturing and grooming of athletes for national and global championhips.
Today, the culture of school sports among Secondary schools is practically dead. Unfortunately, private schools are far more fixated on pumping children with academic work at the expense of a simultaneous building of their body as well.
Shockingly, many approved private schools in Nigeria do not have playgrounds or have converted the existing ones to School gardens.
The slow pace of sport development in Nigeria could be attributed to the collapse of school sports.
Nigeria had a shambolic outing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic fiesta in Brazil without any medal recorded despite participating in many sports.
Had many footballers being scouted early, the officials would not have resorted to the use of embarrassing ” football age”.
Few years back, 25 of 60 Nigerian footballers who underwent the MRI screening test were found to have been overaged and were subsequently disgracefully sent home.
As despicable as these acts are, they are simply the symptoms of many problems of Nigeria.
However, one cannot entirely blame footballers lying about their ages without considering the peculiarity of the Nigeria situation, we do not have a reliable system that searches for talent early, trains them and build them into sportsmen and women.
The few sportsmen who made it in Nigeria have done so through strong personal determination in the face of a relentlessly antagonistic society. Unfortunately by the time they finally make their first sporting appearance, they are already older than their counterparts who started attending sport practice as soon as they could walk.
To resuscitate school sports in Nigeria, the following must be done:
- schools should be well funded by government.
- all schools (private & public) without playgrounds and sporting equipment should never be approved by government.
- schools should be mandated to hold inter-house sports competitions annually.
- school games masters/mistress should be trained, retrained and exposed to modern day training techniques and facilities
- constitution of state sport council should be based on merit and devoid of politics.
- national sporting events for secondary students should be organized by government and be held on yearly basis.
Finally, school Sports which is an avenue for talents to be scouted early should be revitalized in order to ease pressure on aging athletes and footballers.