Despite the abundance of talent across the length and breadth of Africa, in almost every sport, fueled by abundant youth numbers and passion, the development of the sports and the athletes has remained bleak.
A recent report by PREMIUM TIMES showed that Africa’s total haul of 11 gold, 12 silver, and 14 bronze medals was less than Australia’s haul at the recent 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Bad governance and large-scale corruption have variously been blamed for this underdevelopment in the sports sector across Africa; especially in Nigeria.
This worrisome reality was the crux discussed at the one-day online conference on Sports Governance Crisis and Sports Underdevelopment in Africa, which was held on Tuesday, September 28.
The conference facilitated by PLAYYA Nigeria in collaboration with Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and HEDA Resource Centre had discussants from within and outside Nigeria.
The richly assembled panel was unanimous in their verdict that the media has not done enough in holding sports administrators accountable for the rot being witnessed on the continent.
Aside from the humungous financial corruption that has been the order of the day, issues of nepotism, gender inequality, illegal betting, and undue interference among many other key issues have been under-reported, according to the panellists.
Ruth Ajayi, a female football coach at Lead City University, Ibadan harped on gender inequality, which she mentioned as one of the key reasons young girls turned their backs on sports.
According to Ms. Ajayi, being a coach is hard, while being a female coach is even harder.
She said: “Being a coach is not palatable especially as a female, inequality scares many away. Look at the national team, for example, some players have been there for over 10 years but new players are not coming up the ranks to replace them”.
The Lead City University football coach also raised eyebrows at the ‘politicisation’ of sports, which often encourages those without sports knowledge to take key positions in sports administration.
“Sometimes when you go to the Sports ministry, you see those that are in charge are people who studied agriculture, economics, etc.”.
The coach alleged useful ideas are often discarded by these greedy bunch once it does not have personal benefit for them.
Robert Kempe, a journalist from Germany, shared his experience; digging into the dark and dirty side of sports that has often led to attempts to gag him by the administrators.
Kempe, who has been denied accreditation for major competitions because of his hard-hitting investigative pieces, revealed why bad governance thrives in the African sports sector.
According to him, the large numbers from the continent make international bodies like FIFA keen at ensuring an overbearing influence in what goes on in a federation like the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
“Football is a big issue and Africa is one of the most enthusiastic continents. CAF has become a testing ground of FIFA that even FIFA violates her own rules by trying to control CAF,” said Kempe.
Olukayode Thomas, a veteran journalist, also reiterated the need for reporters to always ask critical questions that would unearth the true situation of issues and not be complicit in the rot that is eating deeper into the sports sector.
“For example, another election [into sports federations in Nigeria] is coming up now; as journalists, we should ask those vying for positions what have they done in times past to merit being voted into the positions they seek?”
Mr. Thomas also asked why there has been no uproar on the show of shame in Tokyo, which led to the disqualification of about 10 Nigerian athletes who missed the mandatory out-of-competition tests, which he wrote to the Minister about in November 2020.
He continued: “Up till now, no one has been sacked for that national embarrassment and the media has been silent about it”
Stephanie Adams-Douglas from PTCIJ anchored the event and reiterated that Tuesday’s conference was a follow-up to an event held in 2020 and reminded the audience that corruption is a major challenge in the sector though the corruption goes beyond the financial; as there is nepotism, match-fixing, etc. that continues to bedevil the sector.
Eze Aloysius, one of the organisers said the problem with sports in Africa cannot end today. Aloysius added, “What is more important is to show interest in where we are and where we want to be.”
A communique from the conference is expected soon and will be shared widely among sport stakeholders in Nigeria and beyond.