Segun Toriola, one of Africa’s sporting legends has voiced out his views concerning sports administration in Nigeria. On the court, he is referred to as a legend having won more medals than any athlete at continental competitions and the only African to have attended seven Olympic Games.
The France-based table tennis player believes that as long as sports federations continue to run to the Sports Ministry for funds to prosecute their programmes, Nigeria sports would continue to nosedive.
However, the former African champion clamoured for autonomy for sports federations which he said allows every federation to get their funds directly to prosecute their programme just like what obtains globally.
“I must say that the idea of Ministry of Sports holding on to funds for sports has adversely affected the fortune of sports in Nigeria because most sports federations have international competitions to attend but they had to be running every time to Abuja to beg for fund from the taxpayers money allocated for sports.
“This is why we will continue to go down in sports. I was aware that every federation gives their annual budget to the Sports Ministry who will in turn present it to the government.
“But at the end of the day, no federation knows how much he is getting annually.
“This is too bad for our sports because every federation should know what they are getting so that they can plan with the amount for their programmes.
“I have spent most of our lives outside Nigeria and I know what obtains in other climes but in Nigeria, this is different and that is why we cannot move forward in sports,” Toriola lamented.
The 43-year-old who is eyeing the eight Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan rues the poor preparation for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, saying that the country has never had it so bad when it comes to preparation for major tournaments like the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
“I don’t know why things cannot change in Nigeria because we have less than two months to the Commonwealth Games in Australia and some of us outside the country have no inkling of what is going on.
“Countries like England and India have been supporting their athletes to attend various competitions across the globe that at present over 12 Indian table tennis players are in Porto, Portugal training for the same Commonwealth Games that Nigeria is expecting us to win medals.
“It is disheartening that we found ourselves in this situation that things are not changing at all.”
We will try our best at the games but if we consider the way we have been treated, we will not do well.
“But we want to make names for ourselves and our families and that is why we will always give our best,” he added.
Toriola believes the government is yet to realize the vital roles sports play in the lives of the youths.
“I don’t think the Nigeria government understands what sports can do for Nigerian youths.
“Sports is the only vocation that can create thousands of jobs for young people and it is an easy way out of poverty.
“Young people know that with sports, they can travel all over the world and showcase their talents as well as earn some income. But instead of our government to realise this, they are paying lip service to sports.
“A lot of young people in Europe are doing sports and the government are supporting them to reduce crimes and other vices in the society.
“But in Nigeria, sports is not well supported or funded and this will surely discourage more young people from doing sports and they will take to crimes and vices that will adversely affect the society.
“If our government is ready, a lot of crimes can be curbed with more support to sports,” Toriola cautioned.