Nigerian Sports: How Do We Replace Our Fading Stars?
There is a saying that a one-eyed person is king in the land of the blind.
This opening phrase is by a no means aimed at ridiculing the heroics of some of Nigeria’s long serving sports men and women who for one reason or the other have refused to quit the scene.
The old guns are staying put because they are still holding the aces; albeit on the local scene and not in international circles where they now have to dig deep for glory or any sort of recognition.
In the past, Nigeria through its vibrant school sports system, loaded sports calendar and dedicated coaches was able to create several top stars across different field.
Unfortunately, from Wrestling to Tennis to Football, Table tennis and the likes, the foot prints of the old guards are still very visible.
Barely two days ago, the list of players to represent Nigeria in the table tennis event at the Commonwealth Games was released and Segun Toriola made it.
At 43, one will question the rationale behind the inclusion of Toriola to the Commonwealth Games but fairly enough, he is still among the country’s best after over 25 years in the sport.
Since 1995, Toriola has been ranked as the best Nigerian player and have only dropped to third behind Aruna Quadri and Omotayo Olajide, so it is not a padi padi arrangement that is taking Toriola to the Gold Coast in Australia.
Toriola stands himself out as a top African to attend seven summer Olympic Games but many will argue that with no shade of medal to show why all the noise?
Toriola also prides himself as the first Commonwealth Games gold medalist winner in table tennis having emerged tops in Manchester when the ping pong event was added to the competition.
However, to show that the potency of Toriola is fast diminishing, he was sent packing in the quarter-final stages of the recent 2018 ITTF Africa Top 16 Cup held in Nairobi, Kenya and whether things will be worst in Australia remains to be seen.
So, the question is should the old guards be discarded before they finally fade away or should we begin the process of taking risks with the youngsters and stop shinning the same old war boots?
It is a comparable situation in the women’s Table Tennis where Funke Oshonaike has also reacted to calls that she should quit.
At 42, very few of the ladies in Nigeria can stand Oshonaike who has vowed to carry on playing and has set her eyes on qualifying for her seventh Olympic Games scheduled to hold in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.
The Germany-based star said she would never quit playing because of criticisms from some quarters in a recent post on her official facebook page.
“I ain’t giving up on my dreams because of some no life, no dream people. TOKYO 2020, HERE I COME,” she wrote, adding;
“I was born in the 70s and I know one thing for sure that people born in 70s don’t give up on things easily. So to some of you discouraging me, you’re just encouraging me indirectly because I’ve gone through a lot in my life that has made me stronger than you. Live your life and allow others do the same,” she appealed to her detractors.
Losing Steam On The Tracks?
In athletics, it is not any different as many were not surprised to see Blessing Okagbare listed for the Commonwealth Games despite her absence at the national trials.
"I bet you, with a week training, Okagbare will beat most if not all of this girls that have been running up and down all season.
"We don’t have her match now so let’s make the best use of her for the remaining time left” an official with the Athletics Federation of Nigerian confided in Bounce Sports.
In all, it will be nice for veterans to quit the scene when the ovation is loudest.
It will also be beneficial for upcoming athletes to also work hard enough to usurp the stage from the veterans while for the relevant authorities, a healthy mix of the two generations should be the way to go.
ALSO WATCH: Nigeria’s Bobsled and Skeleton team reveals big plans for the future