Except we want to pretend as a Nation that we don’t know that as a people, we have stupidly used our own hands to destroy a sector that has given us more joy in the last four decades.
Sports is that sector that unifies Nigerians. The performance of our athletes at international sporting events makes us forget our differences as we are united for a common goal, which is, seeing our nation triumph at international sporting events.
However, in the last few years, we have tried so much, to frustrate this happiness with some silly tribal sentiments that is seriously destroying the fabrics of our sports, especially football.
The idea of wanting to use quota system to decide every Nigerian contingent to a major sporting event is the reason why our sport is suffering today. Our coaches are reminded of the need to ensure that there are five yorubas, five hausas and five igbos just to balance the quota system equation before they embark on any major international competition.
On Thursday in far away Algiers, the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria were bundled out of the Under 17 Nations Cup by Burkina Faso, thereby ending Nigeria’s dream of wining a sixth FIFA Under 17 World Cup.
That defeat, left many devastated but it has once again opened a wound that has taken so many years to heal.
Giving to Ceazer what is Ceazers
In 1985 when Nigeria first won the Kodak Under 16 World Cup, defeating Germany by two goals to one in the final, the then chief coach, Sébastien Imasuen Broderick, selected majority of the first team players from the South South, South East and South West.
These boys dazzled with speed and flair as Nigeria shocked the world to win the maiden edition of this competition that was held in China.
After 85, came the 1987 edition in Canada, where the likes of Philip Osondu, Peter Ogaba, Oladimeji Lawal, Segun Fetuga, Anthony Emoedofu and Bawa Abdullahi amongst others, thrilled the world with some brilliant footwork on their way to the final where they eventually lost to the USSR.
That team had a good combination of players from the South South, South West and South East.
The 1989 squad had the likes of Victor Ikpeba, Bobolayefa Edon, Jimoh Balogun and so much more while the team of Fanny Iyakhere Amun of 1993 was loaded with players from Southern and Eastern Nigeria. At that time, Nigerians were not concerned about who played, all that mattered to the ordinary football fan then was a Nigerian victory and they came on a platter.
The captain of the 93′ group was Wilson Oruma but the standout player was Nwankwo Kanu, who later captained Nigeria to a gold medal in the football event of the Atlanta 96 Olympics.
At Nigeria 99, Trinidad and Tobago 2001 up till UAE 2013 and Chile 2015 Under 17 World Cups the only time Nigeria won the competition back to back, star players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze and the rest emerged from some unknown academies in the East and a few others in the South West, that have combined to make Nigeria a super power in youth football.
Even in the present Super Eagles team, majority of our best legs are from Southern and Eastern Nigeria and it will therefore not be out of place if the NFF and indeed the Sports ministry tell our youth coaches to concentrate on these states for the next Okochas, Kanus and Rashidi Yekinis because they have comparative advantage over others.
It is high time we let our coaches pick the best players, not minding where they come from or who they are. We must stop this habit of forcing our coaches to spread the national cake just to satisfy our tribal sentiments.
In Athletics, it is obvious that for the short distant races for women, our best legs reside in the South West and South South, while In the long distant events, our best legs reside in the North.
Nigeria’s best basketballers today are in the South West, the Middlebelt and South South.
In Volleyball, our strenght is in Northern and Eastern Nigeria, while in hockey, our best players are in the North.
Our best Swimmers and wrestlers are in the South South region of the country while our best weightlifters are in the South West and South South.
There is absolutely no need forcing our coaches to tour the country in a bid to satisfy the quota system agenda when in the real sense, these coaches can easily visit a few states with comparative advantage and get the 21 players needed for the National team.
In Ecuador today, as much as they try to emphasize the notion that the country is dominated by the white majority, they have all come to accept the fact that their best footballers reside in a region of the country that is largely dominated by blacks and that explains why 85 percent of their national team players are blacks.
The earlier we resign ourselves to this fate, the better it will be for our sport.