The Story of the In­ter­na­tional Sports Academy

Weekly Trust - - Sportxtra -

On Thurs­day, Novem­ber 9, 2017, it shall be 10 years since the Se­gun Odeg­bami In­ter­na­tional Col­lege and Sports Academy started oper­at­ing as Nige­ria’s first mul­ti­sports, full-fletched, co-ed­u­ca­tional sec­ondary school.

On that day par­ents, fam­ily, friends, cor­po­rate Nige­ria, the me­dia, stake­hold­ers in sports and in ed­u­ca­tion, as well as the general pub­lic shall as­sem­ble in the cam­pus of the in­sti­tu­tion in Wasimi Orile, to join in the cel­e­bra­tions that will mark the 10thanniver­sary of the sports school.

There is a story that must be told of the school that has be­come an ex­cel­lent demon­stra­tion of the power of a dream.

It will serve young peo­ple well to lis­ten and learn from ex­pe­ri­ences that have be­come fuel that can drive their dreams and lead them into a new world of dis­cov­ery and cre­ativ­ity, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the won­der and beauty in­her­ent in the ob­ser­vance of how a lit­tle seed was nour­ished and has now grown into a for­est of trees!

I re­mem­ber how it all started with the dis­ap­point­ment of find­ing my­self at the end of los­ing an elec­tion for the chair­man­ship of the Nige­ria Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, NFA, in Kano in 2004, los­ing most of the lit­tle money I had worked hard for, and wast­ing valu­able time chas­ing an elec­tion I stood no chance of win­ning.

On the eve of the highly con­tro­ver­sial elec­tion that had no back­ing of the sports min­istry, I checked my fi­nan­cial bal­ance and re­al­ized how ex­pen­sive naivety could be. I had been mas­sively naïve, as­sum­ing that my fame as a foot­ball player decades be­fore and my ad­ver­tised ex­pe­ri­ences in sports ad­min­is­tra­tion and in the busi­ness of sport stood me in good stead to garner the votes that would make the elec­tions a walk-over in my favour. Af­ter all, in ad­di­tion to my rel­a­tively suc­cess­ful ca­reer in foot­ball, I had a rich trove of ex­pe­ri­ences in the me­dia, in ath­lete man­age­ment, in pi­o­neer­ing the sports busi­ness in Nige­ria, and in sports man­age­ment af­ter re­tir­ing from the game as a player.

Un­der nor­mal con­di­tions, those would be un­matched cre­den­tials, enough to se­cure votes and stroll unto the pin­na­cle of foot­ball ad­min­is­tra­tion in the coun­try. Lit­tle did I re­al­ize that the world of sports pol­i­tics is a dif­fer­ent uni­verse, with rules of en­gage­ment dif­fer­ent from the rules in sports, the former al­ways suf­fer­ing the shift­ing tides of per­sonal in­ter­ests and chang­ing dy­nam­ics. In this new planet things worked dif­fer­ently. Ev­ery­thing here was un­der the full con­trol of the most pow­er­ful man in Nige­rian sport at the time, the re­mote pup­peteer, di­rect­ing the shape and form of sports ad­min­is­tra­tion from his ex­alted seat in the sports min­istry, a man who held Nige­rian sports by the jugu­lar for decades, a per­son with­out whom noth­ing and no one could suc­ceed in Nige­rian sport - Amos Adamu.

On the eve of the Kano elec­tions, along with a few other mem­bers of the elec­torate that had been called up by their var­i­ous State sports com­mis­sion­ers, or gov­er­nors and in­structed to boy­cott the elec­tions and to re­turn to Abuja where another elec­tion was be­ing or­ga­nized un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Min­istry of Sports, I could sense the on­set of a sea­son of cri­sis. For me that had no sup­port from any pow­er­ful forces in govern­ment, and com­pletely un­able to pen­e­trate even a sin­gle voter I re­al­ized too late that I was merely chas­ing shad­ows. I needed to count my losses, lick my wounds, and move on with my life to other things.

That’s how Kunle Raji and I drove away from Kano and headed back to La­gos via Abuja with­out ac­tu­ally wait­ing to par­tic­i­pate any­more in the elec­tions that had been de­signed to stop Ibrahim Gal­adima by all means by ex­e­cut­ing a strat­egy scripted by the sports min­istry un­der Amos Adamu. What was up­per­most on mind was how to get away from that tense en­vi­ron­ment and re­turn to the sports school project that I had had to set aside for the elec­tions.

I had wasted the re­sources I should have in­vested in the project for a politi­cal race that I could never have won. With Adamu in power and in con­trol, know­ing how he felt about me (ex­pressed of­ten to mu­tual friends in sports) I should have known bet­ter than to waste my time and re­sources try­ing to cross the At­lantic blind­folded! But that would also be de­featist, that is, to give up against the grain of what I had learnt in sport that no moun­tain is too high to climb. So, I had to con­vert that loss to some kind of suc­cess.

The good thing is that I had mas­tered the art of man­ag­ing ‘loss’. Los­ing is an in­evitable part of sport. You can never win if you are not pre­pared to lose, and go be­yond it. In­deed in sport we lose more of­ten than we win any­thing. What we do is mas­ter how to con­vert loss to fuel a fu­ture suc­cess.

So, I wasted no time in the limbo of lamen­ta­tion. I started to look for the bless­ings in the elec­tion dis­ap­point­ment. I needed to quickly iden­tify the stones to step on in the de­bris of my ‘fail­ure’ in or­der to move on to the next chap­ter, for that’s what my life had al­ways be­ing – a se­ries of ad­ven­tures! My great­est con­cern was get­ting fresh fund­ing. But I was de­ter­mined, driven by the spirit and at­ti­tude de­vel­oped in sport never to give up but to fo­cus on the goal, not to be dis­tracted by the voices of doubt and of fear, but to bravely take a dive off the cliff and know if I could fly. Oh, I flew and it was beau­ti­ful.

My great­est mo­ti­va­tion was to re­mem­ber my Olympic credo that the greater hon­our in sport lies more in the par­tic­i­pa­tion than in the win­ning! So, I rushed back to my lit­tle vil­lage of Wasimi Orile to re­vive my com­part­men­tal­ized dream.

With the small change money left in my pocket, I em­barked on a re­mark­able jour­ney aided by the el­e­ments. Brick by brick struc­tures started to sprout in that fo­liage of green vir­gin trees and veg­e­ta­tion, slowly be­com­ing the dream lab­o­ra­tory of learn­ing and a cen­tre for train­ing in sport where spe­cially iden­ti­fied and se­lected chil­dren with passion for sport, will­ing to com­bine this passion with a sound ed­u­ca­tion, would find the per­fect plat­form.

The vi­sion was clear, the road was go­ing to be rough and tough, but that’s ex­actly what I had been used to through sev­eral decades of go­ing through the drills of sports, a tough life of end­less sea­sons of mo­not­o­nous phys­i­cal and men­tal ex­er­tions un­der strict and rules for every con­duct, a reg­i­mented ex­is­tence where suc­cess is mea­sured in mil­lime­tres and mi­crosec­onds, in tiny por­tions laced all the way with hic­cups and chal­lenges that must be con­verted into the win­ning shot, the win­ning goal, the win­ning jump, the win­ning spirit where we com­ing first mat­ters lit­tle but fin­ish­ing the race means ev­ery­thing.

Every sportsper­son must learn how to sur­vive on the fuel of hope and faith, learn to live in a space where im­pos­si­bil­ity does not ex­ist con­stantly me­an­der­ing through mine­fields of pain and frus­tra­tions. Two years af­ter re­turn­ing from Kano, one evening, I stood at the high­est point in Wasimi Orile and looked down proudly at the sea of green veg­e­ta­tion be­fore me now punc­tu­ated here and there by new lit­tle struc­tures.

I re­mem­ber the day very clearly. It was the day we de­clared that we had enough in place and on ground to open the gates of the school to our first set of pupils. It opened a new chap­ter in my life and also in the lives of the 27 stu­dents that pi­o­neered that great ex­per­i­ment. Most of them are now the am­bas­sadors of SOCA and na­tional role mod­els of the com­bi­na­tion of sports and ed­u­ca­tion.

I have in­vited peo­ple to come and see for them­selves how well we are do­ing. They will join us in ex­press­ing grat­i­tude to all those that have con­trib­uted in one way or the other in mak­ing the dream of SOCA a re­al­ity.

It has been 10 years since the school started. There is a story to tell the world. Next Thurs­day, in the lit­tle vil­lage of Wasimi Orile, I shall tell that story. I in­vite all to come bear wit­ness.

With the semi-fi­nal places in the Blue Group de­cided last week, Team Tech Vibe of Jos is hop­ing for Team Goshen of Ilorin to up­set Team Ndoma-Egba in Abuja to land a semi-fi­nal place from the White Group.

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Team Of­fikwu with four wins out of four have al­ready se­cured the first semi-fi­nal place and Team Ndoma - Egba with three points will have to lose to Team Goshen with two points to have the sec­ond spot de­pend on matches won and lost.

A Goshen vic­tory will also let in Team Tech Vibe which is primed for a clean sweep of matches against Team Ye­tade of Ek­iti in Jos this week­end to scale through on a su­pe­rior matches won and lost con­sid­er­a­tion.

Man­ager Ger­not Rohr won’t call up a late re­place­ment for in­jured Changchun Yatai F.C. front­man Odion Ighalo be­cause there are al­ready enough play­ers in camp dis­closed Su­per Ea­gles spokesman Toyin Ibitoye.

The former Wat­ford star faces up to two weeks on the side­lines af­ter sprain­ing his knee in his club’s last match in the Chi­nese Su­per League against Chongqing Li­fan.

‘’He (Ighalo) is pained in­jury has ruled him out of the Novem­ber matches,” Ea­gles spokesman Toyin Ibitoye told SCORENige­ria

‘’He has a slight knock around his knee, he will be out for two weeks.

How­ever, former na­tional cham­pion and lead player for Team Ndoma - Egba, Thomas Otu, said he and his team mates “are more than ready to ride the chal­lenge.”

“Team Goshen ar­rived two days ear­lier to train in Abuja which tells us how se­ri­ously they are tak­ing this tie but we are also train­ing very hard. We are not just look­ing to qual­ify for the semis. We have our eyes on the big prize.” Otu said.

In Kaduna, Team Of­fikwu has the rel­a­tively easy task of achiev­ing a clean sweep of round robin ties as they take on Team CBN Fu­tures - a col­lec­tion of the best ju­niors in the coun­try.

The de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons will how­ever have them­selves to blame if they un­der­rate the ju­nior stars who have won a tie and beaten sev­eral top 20 play­ers this year.

‘’There will be no re­place­ment (for Ighalo) be­cause we were al­ready more than the 23 play­ers to be of­fi­cially listed for the games.’’

Ahmed Musa (Le­ices­ter City), Kelechi Iheanacho (Le­ices­ter City), Moses Si­mon (KAA Gent), Alex Iwobi (Arse­nal FC), Henry Onyekuru (RSC An­der­lecht) and An­thony Nwakaeme (Hapoel Be’er Sheva) are the play­ers listed as strik­ers in the lat­est Nige­rian squad list.

The Su­per Ea­gles will face Al­ge­ria on Novem­ber 10, be­fore wrap­ping up their 2017 sched­ule against Ar­gentina four days later in South­ern Rus­sia.

Odion Ighalo cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing against the In­domitable Lions of Cameroon in Uyo

Sarah Ade­goke in ac­tion at the on­go­ing Nige­ria Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion Ten­nis League

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