Stop This Discrimination or Face Protest
After Nigeria’s senior male basketball team won their first match at the ongoing 2013 Afrobasket in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire Wednesday, many thoughts ran through my mind all through the night. And this include the injustice meted out to other sports men and women outside the world of football.
If Super Eagles were the ones who defeated their Malian counterparts yesterday, all the players would have been smiling with $5,000 each in their pocket. They even get half of that if they drew any match. In basketball, players have only two options, win or lose.
But how much will they get for their victories so far, not even up to 10% of what the footballers get. Yet they both, that is, football and basketball players, carry the country’s flag at international tournaments. Why the discrimination? This has been happening over the years and questions should be asked and answers provided by those who hold public offices in trust for us Nigerians.
Is the football player more Nigerian than the basketball, tennis, volleyball player or an athlete like Blessing Okagbare who wiped out tears from our eyes at the just concluded World Athletics Championships, an equivalent of football’s World Cup?
Bringing it to the corridors of power, does the Minister of Finance collect more pay than his/her Agriculture or Culture and Tourism counterpart? When they travel out on national assignments, are their estacode discriminatory? If not, then why must football players be rated higher than their counterparts in other sports.
For the first time I am getting close to a national team and I now know what they go though to represent our country. In football players sweat it out for 90 minutes for two halves of 45 minutes with an additional two or three minutes extra time. Except in knock-out stages where a winner must emerge and they go for as much as 120 minutes plus the time for penalties. In basketball, they have four quarters of 10 minutes each but each quarter could take more than 20 minutes depending on the strength of both teams, so tell me how the football player is more superior.
Every sports minister that comes says he will not be a football minister but end up being exactly that. Co-captain of the basketball team, Olumide Oyedeji alluded to that in Abuja during a reception for the team before their departure to Abidjan when he appealed to the sports minister, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi not to follow suit but support all sports.
The minister replied that he is not one hence he cut short his trip to Moscow where he went to motivate the athletics team to the World Championships to be with them and wish them luck in the 2013 Afrobasket.
I don’t expect it to end with that talk, let him practicalise it by ensuring that all Nigerian athletes are treated equally because our constitution says we all have equal rights. As a journalist, I expect the minister to lead the way in this campaign which I want to start and I believe my colleagues, like Jide Fashikun and Afolabi Gambari, among many others will join this crusade to free our lesser sports from discrimination.
Stand up and join in this crusade for the betterment of future generations of our sports men and women. If tennis could do it in Wimbledon by making the prize money for men and women champions equal, why can’t the Nigerian government give equal recognition and compensation to our deserving athlete irrespective of the sport he or she is engaged in.
Remember it took the protest of Rosa Parks in a bus in the USA and the ultimate sacrifice of Rev Martin Luther King Jnr for blacks to get equal rights in the USA which has today culminated into the first black president in Barak Obama. If it was possible there, it will be possible here. Equal rights for Nigeria sports men and women. Please join in this campaign and God will bless you abundantly for standing on the side of justice and equal rights.