Olympic bronze medalist, Deji Aliu, says Nigeria’s poor performance at international sporting championships was due to a lack of competitions, structure and incentives to motivate athletes.
Aliu said a lack of motivation has forced many frustrated athletes to abandon sports.
In the wake of the failure of Nigerian athletes to win laurels at the ongoing World Athletics Championships in London, Aliu told TheCable that “the reason is not far fetched. Back then there are so many competitions, incentives to motivate athletes”.
He said: “We used to have a lot of competitions from U16 to U20, to the classics. But now, there are no more competitions. The age grade competitions are dead. Even the so called classics, we don’t even do it anymore.
“So, that alone has really affected the morale and performance of athletes. Some athletes have probably gone into other sports or stop altogether. For us to back to those glorious days, we need to revive those competitions that are no more.
“I started out from secondary school games. As of today, I don’t think it’s still in existence. And this is the best avenue for you to groom athletes at that stage.
“Things have been bad for years, just that it has now gotten to the peak. Administrative wise, we are zero, management of athletes, it is also zero. Sponsorship derivation is zero. Nothing is working.”
Aliu also told TheCable that the American collegiate system which offers scholarships to Nigerian athletes was part of the problem.
The 100m gold medalist at the All Africa Games in 2013 said: “The questions we need to ask ourselves is, how many Nigerian athletes go to America? How many of them really become a better athlete at the end of the day?
“Is America really good for us? As an athlete, I will tell you no. Most Nigerian athletes that go through the American collegiate are almost at their peak.”
He said the American collegiate system is good for athletes that are still in their prime, within the age range of 15-17, and not 25-27.
“Most of the Nigerian athletes going to America collegiate are already at their peak. When they get there, one year, two years, they are done.
“American collegiate is not as easy as everyone thinks. The school gives you a scholarship and you get to run for them. You go for meets every week. And the school does not care about the Olympics or World Athletics championship.
“All they care about is the NCAA. Once you run well at the NCAA, that’s all. And this is what is happening to our athletes. You see them run well at NCAA events but when it comes to big occasions, they are done. The school programme has already exhausted them.
“America is giving them scholarships but they are using them for themselves. They are not going to train any athlete for Nigeria. No, they won’t.”
He advised that the way out is to develop athletes at home by replicating the collegiate scholarship system in Nigerian universities.
“Nigeria will need to take the bull by its horns to train athletes on their own. We need to take the Jamaican example. We should be able to train our athletes at home. Provide the necessities for them,” he said.
“Let’s start looking inward and see how we will improve on our Nigerian universities first. When you call someone a student athlete, there should be a preference for such athlete.
Aliu however said that Europe, not the United States, can offer an athlete the opportunity to make money, attain fame and have an education.
“If any talented athletes should ask me on how to make it, I will tell such that it is only in Europe that can make name, education and money,” he added.