On Monday, Ozoya, Chairman of Manchester Bulls Football Club, spoke to PREMIUM TIMES about various issues related to sports development and how Nigeria can benefit from the untapped sports industry.
The UK-based manager, who is also the current Division Secretary of the Suffolk Under-12 Leagues and District Leagues, shared plans to help uncover talent from the various internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Nigeria.
PT: Apart from training, can you tell us a bit about your football career?
ozya: Those days I played grassroots football with people like Nduka Ugbade in Surulere, what we called ‘jeun-jeun’ at the time.
I went to CMS Grammar School and there was a huge rivalry with other schools like St. Finbarr’s College, St. Gregory’s, Igbogbi College, Methodist Boys and all those other great schools.
It was a good time, and we all witnessed the beginnings of ‘Greater Tomorrow’ at the national stadium and we all saw the first batch of lucky players like Nduka Ugbade and company who went to play in the ’85 China U-16 World Cup. and brought back the glory [for the country].
That was when many parents in Nigeria realized that it was good to play soccer because some of us were tied with ropes on our legs not to play soccer at that time, but now they started to push us to play soccer. It was a good time in Nigerian football.
PT: Why have you continued to be an advocate of grassroots development both in the UK and in your home country of Nigeria?
ozya: It’s just passion… Due to my involvement in grassroots football at Swinton FC, I have been able to gain a lot of knowledge about grassroots football and we have been able to replicate the same in Nigeria since 2013.
Swinton FC have also supported me in obtaining kits to support grassroots development. We have also held tournaments in different states and donated kits-boots, shirts and balls to support grassroots football.
I also mentor many young coaches and players whom I refer to scouts who can guide their development in the game.
Currently we have just opened a charity shop in Lagos where you can pick up some of these kits very cheaply so the money can go back to supporting tournaments or coach development, just to raise funds to support the grassroots.
That’s where we are.
PT: As someone who has played grassroots football in Nigeria and now as a manager in the UK, what gaps can you identify and how can we get it right in Nigeria?
ozya: One of the biggest challenges we have is that we don’t have a roadmap for sports development, let alone football. We need to have a SMART sports policy in Nigeria, something that is measurable and time bound, and we need to set targets.
That’s why it has to be SMART. Then all national governing bodies must come up with those policies and house them within the sports they play and implement those policies within their various sports.
What we have right now cannot be placed here or there. In England, they only have about five goals; in France, they have between five and seven goals.
We know that the Nigerian environment differs from the European environment, but we can still optimize what we want to achieve in our sports,
PT: The Nigerian team was in the UK recently and did exceptionally well. How did that make you feel?
ozya: We perform very well. It makes us all proud and this is the best time to be a Nigerian, but if we want to be honest, did we have a proper structure that got the athletes to where they are? Most of them did not train locally.
They had to train outside, so as part of our future development for sports in Nigeria, some of those things that we’re going to train outside for our kids, we can have locally, so we can have more of those talents.
With our population, we should dominate whatever sport we’re in; that is my belief.
PT: So how can Nigeria dominate these sports?
ozya: If we have the correct structure in place. In soccer, for example, we should transfer as many players as possible out of Nigeria. If we develop the coaches very well, we will have the best players because currently, how many coaches do we develop annually?
How many releases do we create annually? How much do we invest in the bases in all states? I know we have them in the states, local governments, and the federal government, but the question is: do they really work?
Are they really working together? Do we really have a goal for the year, that this is what we want to achieve?
During those years when we were kids, we used to have the Principal’s Cup, inter-class games and inter-school sports, people played academics, etc., and people moved into the clubs after the transition from elementary school to high school. secondary.
Today, do we really have that path in our country?
These are the areas we need to return to. Those days when we wanted to go to high school we would pay for sports equipment and stuff, then when you go to your school you see different sports that you can participate in, but today we even have schools that have courts and sports. installations?
In those days, you could even play cricket in some schools, but today, how many students have seen a cricket bat?
A lot can be done and it is necessary to bring together many professionals who have developed as administrators and managers within the game, not just ex-players.
Sports journalists, sports scientists…it’s a whole team, so all the sports professionals need to come together to sit and watch Nigerian sports and come up with a sports policy that is SMART, and then set a time frame of what What we want. achieve in our sport.
We have the resources and the human capital; We can rule the world.
PT: Why do you think Nigeria needs more investment in the sports industry?
ozya: Nigeria must look at the grassroots from the youth development aspect because with the grassroots we are going to engage them positively, that’s one. Two, we are going to improve the health of the Nigerian citizenry if we invest in sports and provide facilities and some kind of education on the importance of sports.
Also, it will be like another point in Nigeria where we can boost the economy. If we have a proper sports structure in Nigeria I bet the economic, health and safety benefits will be huge, that is my message to our administrators and the people who have been running our sports.
I will plead with you to reach out to the many Nigerians who are professionals and who understand what needs to be done to help Nigeria get to where we need to be and get them involved in advancing the sport.
There are many Nigerians who will want to support whatever you are doing to bring sports to that level. We can appeal to some of our professionals who are doing very well to come home.
Sports can give us more economic benefits than we currently get from the entertainment industry because when you look at the volume, especially in soccer for example, how many soccer balls do we play in a day? So if we invest in a soccer factory that produces the soccer, how many jobs are we going to create? How much are we going to be doing?
Then look at the parents who go jogging, or those who play basketball, volleyball and other sports. If we make this equipment in Nigeria, how much will we sell and how much will it come in as tax to the government?
How many young people will be employed in the sports industry? Sport is a massive industry. So I continue to plead with our administrators to see sports as another means of earning hard currency to help our economy. We can no longer depend solely on oil. We know that it is not sustainable, but the sports business will also help our economy.
Economic planners should also see how they can reap the benefits of sports.
PT: Are there other ways that sports, particularly soccer, can be used to positively affect society?
ozya: Our Foundation is moving away from the normal development aspect for which we are known, to the humanitarian aspect. We’re looking at getting talent from some of the IDP camps in Nigeria, to represent Nigeria in about 10 years in the Olympics or Commonwealth Games, because we know that there is a lot of talent. We are looking for young players in IDP camps to play in the Premiership. That is the vision I have and what we want to work towards for our humanitarian journey.
PT: Given that we have several IDP camps spread across the country, are there specific camps that you are targeting?
ozya: For now we will look more to the Northwest. Yes, we can provide them with food, shelter and lodging, and other essentials, but we have to give them hope, and I don’t think we’re doing much for them in that regard.
We cannot have children, a generation that does not have a good education, skills or sports opportunities. Therefore, I believe that we must do more to support the internally displaced persons camps. That’s why we’re looking at the humanitarian aspect, while continuing with the development aspect that we started in 2013.
PT: Thanks for the audience.
ozya: No problem.
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