A certain Nigerian athlete is on my mind.
She was billed to win, but she lost her event. She worked extremely hard. She is funded and adopted by a powerful and well-respected spiritual leader. She has been a model of good conduct and character through the years of her wearing the national colours of Nigeria.
Against this solid background, she lost a match she was on the verge of winning.
It gave me plenty of food for thought again about religion and sports.
At the risk of offending certain sensitivities, fasting, praying and wishful thinking do not win Olympic medals. If they did the countries that would be atop the medals table at the end of Tokyo 2020 would be the most religious countries in the world, led by Nigeria!
Prayer, fasting and wishful thinking in sport, on their own without all the basic and more important ingredients that go with winning, are subtle bribes offered the Universe to become partial and to reward unearned and undeserved medals
For Nigerians, indeed for all Africans, it should be clear now – Miracles and sports hardly go together. They do not happen in the dimension of ‘water turning into wine. If you know of one such ‘miracle’ in sports let me know. I think they ended with the end of the ancient Olympics between the gods.
At the largest gathering of humans on earth, the elements would not promote any practices that have scourged the world as at no other time in history with colonialism, semitism, Apartheid, racism, injustice, inequality, discrimination, bias, partiality, and conflicts.
The Olympics are the opposite – games that are friendly, healthy, designed to promote peace, equality, harmony and unity contested on level playing fields and won only on merit.
On this sacred planet of sports, athletes are equal and can only reap what they sow. Otherwise, the whole essence and purpose of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games become defective and defeated.
On that premise, Team Nigeria went to the Tokyo Games, saw, and are coming back to the country with medals to the extent and value of the country’s investment in sport. That is the stark and unbiased reality. Anything beyond that in expectation is wishful thinking which, like miracles, has no place in sport.
Nigeria’s investment in sports is minuscule, therefore, its harvest of medals will and should reflect that, no more, no less. You do not plant a single seed and expect to harvest a plantation.
In the case of Tokyo 2020, one Silver and one Bronze medal as reward for all that the country inputed into its sports going to the Games, are a reflection of the state of Nigeria’s sports. That is a harsh reality which every Nigerian must accept in order to embark on the hard road to greater success in future.
Nigeria must draw lessons from observing what the successful countries at the Games are doing to advance their sport and harvest bountiful dividends from their investment in it.