Football is Nigeria’s game. This is an easily provable theory because all we see around us are young Nigerians chasing a ball [of all shapes and sizes] across any available tract of land.
The foregoing reinforces the notion that football is the easiest game for Nigerian youth to pick up and play, but the Chairperson of the Lagos State Sports Commission, Sola Aiyepeku, told that this is a myth.
“Let me dispose that theory first. Football is like volleyball, it’s like handball, there are three sports we identified that has that kind of structure, I can play volleyball like that, I can attach a string on two sticks, I have a volleyball court and I mark it out on the sand and we’ve tried that experiment in the grassroots and we see that it works.”
The Nigeria Professional Football League is the most dominant sport league in the country, and that has subsisted for decades, while football is the most keenly followed.
But 70 million people cannot only play football, there needs to be a national strategy to ensure we develop other sports because Nigeria has the numbers to succeed on multiple fronts.
Mr Aiyepeku said it all depends on the strategy and the passion of delivery. “So, the question is how do you deliver on those kinds of project to encourage mass participation.
“The problem is people always look at it from the top, we need equipment, we need that, what you need is a ball. The basics is that you need a ball and you need one or two players on each side like beach volleyball and then you have a string across that can demarcate the height of what the net should be and then you play.
“Then you can start teaching, likewise handball, a handball goal post, in those days when we were all younger, we used to go into the bush to go and cut sticks and create a goal post for football. It was the same thing for handball, it’s even a smaller goal post. So we have broken it down to those brass stacks to say you can play these sports, you may not have the perfect equipment but you can play enough in your backyard or whatever open field you find to play.
“Badminton, the same thing, as all you need is a racket, I remember those days when we were playing table tennis, remember, when the handle of our bats broke that’s what brought about ‘abula’, then you now start using the paddle of the bat to play so it depends on how you present and how you deliver on the product and the kind of passion involved in delivering that product, you will get by.
“I think that’s what we have to keep doing [to develop other sports],” Mr Aiyepeku added.
Nigeria has won many accolades in football but so also in other sports like basketball, athletics, table tennis, wrestling, and others.