There were more roots than grass on our pitch

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By Basheer Luqman Olarewaju

In this week’s column, the lens of ‘People in the Spotlight’ would magnify the recent happenings in the world of sports, most especially, the football world. And another story that piqued my interest is the ground record-breaking milestone attained by Kwara sports contingents and her confraternities; a resounding kudos to the efforts of His Excellency, the executive governor of Kwara State, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, on rejuvenating the face of Kwara Sports.

Recently, the return of Super Eagle of Nigeria’s Skipper, Ahmed Musa, to his boyhood club after his spell in Europe and Asia Continents sparked airwaves on the African football parlance as several opinions were posited: some views were off; he intended to use his revered experiences to motivate and inspire the athletes in the country while some held opinions that; he is a failure who could not secure international opportunities and decided to cover up his shame in his country.

They say you should never go back and dash; but for these players, there was no place like home. Henrik Larsson (Helsingborg); Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes); Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord); Nick Barmby (Hull); and Daniel Agger (Brondby). A shocking move was made by Dani Alves (Sao Paulo), so many were surprised when he signed a three-year contract at Sao Paulo, returning to his home country after 17 hugely successful years in Europe. Even the England record goalscorer, Wayne Rooney, after more than 15 years, rejoined the toffees (Everton) having broken through as a 16-year-old with the body of a man.

Like fellow South American Alves would do four years later, Tevez shocked many in 2015 when he decided to head back to his home nation despite other offers on the table. The forward signed for Boca Juniors having reached the Champions League final with Juventus in May and netting 20 Serie A goals. Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, and PSG were all thought to be interested, but Tevez instead opted for a return to Argentina. Following a spell in China with Shanghai Shenhua – which made the 35-year-old simultaneously very rich and unhappy – he is now at Boca for a third time.

The reality that strikes us in Africa is that we do fail to appreciate our own product/talent. Lionel Messi plans to retire in Argentina. Cristiano Ronaldo would kick his last touch in Sporting Lisbon. Several top players from other continents had/would be done/do so. There is no need to request for the head of the Eagle’s Captain. “I left Pillars over 10-years ago without winning the league then but now, by God’s grace, I will make a special record by leading the club to the Nigeria Professional Football League title,” Ahmed Musa had explained.

Similarly, a group of 12 clubs from across Europe’s biggest leagues announced plans to form a new competition called the Super League. The league had plans to offer permanent spots to some of the world’s biggest clubs and play matches midweek, while allowing the involved clubs to remain in their domestic competitions. The idea was for the top European football clubs to break away from UEFA and start their own competition in 2021. Of the 16 teams contesting the competition, 11 would be labelled as “core founding” clubs. These 11 clubs would be guaranteed their places in the Super League for 20 years.

Europe’s biggest clubs don’t feel like they currently get enough of either, and so they’re trying to build the Super League to get more of both. All of this makes the Champions League a massive reward, but also a massive risk. And it’s that risk that the big clubs behind the Super League want to eliminate. Shockingly, the Super League collapsed before a ball was kicked in the European breakaway competition after being abandoned by the six English clubs, leaving the Spanish and Italian participants stranded.

Journeying with me so far, the people in the football world are in the discourse. Something elegant was welcomed last few days in Kwara State. Kwara State with other states participated in the biannual national sports festival hosted in Edo State tagged “Edo 2020”. Each state presented her contingents to compete in different sporting areas. In a mind blowing outcome, the state of harmony moved eight steps up in national ranking. Great!

It is pertinent to laud the efforts of His Excellency, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, in his quest to resuscitate the dying Kwara Sports. The State’s investments in the sports sector are yielding positive results with the sterling performance of its athletes at the just concluded National Sports Festival held in Edo.

The administration’s decision to resuscitate Kwara State Sports Festival 15 years after has been justified with the improved outing of the state’s contingent to Edo 2020 as Kwara ended the campaign on the 15th of medals table. Kwara came 15th on the medals’ table of Edo 2020, having garnered seven gold, six silver and 31 bronze medals, totalling 44 medals.

Recall, in Abuja 2018, Kwara came a 23rd on the medals’ table of the National Sports Festival. During the festival, Kwara had only one gold medal, six silver and five bronze medals, totalling 12 medals. When Florentino Perez of Real Madrid in Spain was shaking the world of football with proposed Super League, the beat of drum of success in this present administration was making a resounding intensity. This is a great leap!

If I ever appreciate His Excellency, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, on this feat, it will be because of the fact that the tourney was an avenue for new breeds in the sports sector using the festival to unearth more talents: There were more roots than grass on our pitch, but Gov AA allowed his people to DREAM! I plead on behalf of the athletes that the present administration should continue to honor, recognize and reward those who brought laurels to the state.

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