June, 17 2022.
By Wale Ajayi.
Nigeria's failure to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar came as a rude shock to millions of football fans. Many have not stopped counting their loses, after four years of patient wait.
The Nigeria football federation NFF, are the worst victims. The board has come under intense criticism and condemnation by football fans and the media but like wounded lions, they have put behind them the disappointment and have decided to take the bull by the horn going forward.
The failure of the Super Eagles have turned out a blessing in disguise for other men and women National teams.
The Super Falcons have since qualified for the Africa women's Nations Cup in Morocco, where they hope to pick one of the tickets to the women's world cup.
The Falconets and Flamingos have also qualified for the FIFA Under-20 and Under-17 women's world Cup while the Flying Eagles of Nigeria won the WAFU B Under 20 World Cup only recently to qualify for the AFCON Under-20 championship.
That is not all, as the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria have qualified for the Semi final of the WAFU Under-17 football tournament in Ghana and are oncourse to picking one of the tickets to the Nations Cup.
That is the story of a very proactive board, who have now seen the need to invest in youth football and are daily counting their blessings.
Nigeria youth and sports minister, Sunday Dare on assumption of office in 2019, identified youth development as one of his key priorities and has gone about his business with the dexterity of a leader on a mission.
The National youth games held in Ilorin was a huge success. That competition helped the federations, to a large extent, to discover some of the outstanding individuals that helped Nigeria to a third place finish at the 2021 Under-20 World Athletics championship in Kenya.
And just last week, Team Nigeria finished third on the final medals table at the 22nd edition of the African Senior Athletics Championship which ended on Sunday, in Mauritius. Nigeria with five gold, three silver and three bronze medals finished behind Kenya and South Africa who had 10 and 9 Gold medals respectively.
All these are the results of three years of conscious planning that is beginning to yield dividends.
The recent successes recorded in football is not without the input and impact of Mr Sunday Dare who played a key role in ensuring that for the first time in many years, the right persons were appointed as head coaches of the various youth teams. He also insisted that the NFF must emphasis the need to succeed to all the coaches and offer them all the needed support where and when necessary.
So, it is not a surprise that Dare, after over two years of intervention into the unending NBBF Crisis, sought the permission of the federal government to withdraw Nigeria from international Basketball for two years.
Many did not see the wisdom in this decision at the very beginning but from the actions of the warring factions, it has become even more glaring that they really do not have the interests of the athletes at heart.
The ministry has since set up an interim body to supervise the forthcoming National Under-18 basketball championship with a view to discovering talented basketballers that will become world beaters in two years time
The vision of planning and the wisdom of administration is what has kept Dare going. For many, the crisis that swallowed former AFN president Shehu Gusau was a needless one but today, with the many successes recorded in Athletics on the continent and at the World level, it won't be wrong to appeal for calm and patience as Sunday Dare continues to shun out more outstanding successes in everything he touches.