Great Ife is 60. Yes, Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Oba Awon University hit her diamond anniversary this year and its custom, the inter-faculty games, is used to round off the celebrations.
The Games came to an end on the 8th of September, with the Faculty of Education defeating the Post Graduate College by two goals to nil, in what was an enthralling final by the two faculties with the highest representation in the school team that took the university league (another great initiative nipped in the bud by Covid-19) by storm, and this was followed by the presentation of medals.
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Alas, we have come to the crux of the matter, for the only medals presented directly to the participating competitors from 14 faculties who competed in 16 different games were the ones presented to those who played the football finals, and the sprinters who intentionally slated their finals for the 15 minutes half time interval just so they could also have their proverbial 15 minutes of fame in the spotlight.
For context, the school representatives, designated to oversee the basketball finals slated for 2pm were so late that the sports men who had been present to entertain them were forced to conduct two warm up sessions, only for the authorities to rush out of their seats barely two minutes into the game in order that they might not be late for football
The case was not any different in the handball finals slated for the day before. The school’s representatives would have missed the event out rightly were it not for the fact that the game went into overtime, in a game that was hotly contested by the Post Graduate team against a formidable Education team powered on by Nigeria’s handball youth team captain.
This is not by any means a beef track or a gang up between all the other sports against football, what we would like to address is the usage by the school authorities of football to paper over the cracks that grow ever bigger in OAU sports.
Despite all OAU students levied a sports fee annually, despite all the sponsors the school has at its disposal, the football games were played with balls bought by the participating students. The women finals in basketball had to be delayed because the second semi-finals between two male teams was about to commence and there was only one good ball.
The basketball court has only one competition standard court outdoors, the one available indoors is highly competitive with regards to shared time with the taekwondo and the badminton teams. This is despite having facilities for four courts outdoors, even the world standard fiber glass rims presented to the school by former NBA star Olumide Oyedeji, has fallen to disrepair with nothing being done to restore or repair it. All games were played on rims without nets.
The story was not any different in handball and volleyball. With two courts available for handball outdoors, only one has posts and the less said about the nets, the better. The fact that two volleyball courts have been taken over by skaters gives one a clear indication of things. (Well, at least they are putting it to good use. The other paired courts have only one net fitted and that was what was used to host the games of the just completed festival.)
The practice of handing medals to OAU athletes in obscurity sometimes weeks after the completion of the festival or the complete non-availability of medals as was the case some years ago is doing nothing to motivate young athletes and the only loser is the university.
A brief conversation with chess and scrabble players also reveals that the equipment available to them were those purchased when the school was preparing for NUGA a couple of years ago. Which now brings us to the qualifiers for NUGA, which would be taking place in November for the games proper slated for next year.
While there is optimism growing for the nationwide games, especially with the incoming director of sports, whom many know is an avid supporter of female athletes and the godfather of the female basketball team in OAU in person of Prof. Ekpo, a lot needs to be done and done quickly to ensure that the school takes it rightful place at the pinnacle of youth sports in Nigeria.
While not trying to teach seasoned professionals their jobs, an audit of all facilities and equipment would be a great way to start, followed by a judicious use of all funds as paid by the student body and finally, tapping into the rich sponsorship base that has always been enjoyed from time past. It is unbecoming for students to be buying their own balls except for personal training.
The sports hall is another bone of contention for a while now, a situation where established school athletes don’t get to bond and fraternize with one another in other to spur on competition, should be investigated with a time line for when the hall would be returned to its right-full owners especially now that the school is looking to complete other halls of residences behind the school’s central market.
The great in Great Ife, for those who don’t know how the slogan originated, actually comes from her dominance of the sports scene especially amongst her peers and the budding place for all the discovered sportsmen and athletes over the years has been the annual inter-faculty games. As such everything must be done to ensure that such a strong conveyor belt does not grind to a halt.
Permit me to be proud and do some name calling; From Enoch Adegoke, who stole the headlines at this year’s Olympics that was held in Tokyo, Japan, one of Africa’s fastest men till date, Olusoji Fasuba, to world famous NBA star Olumide Oyedeji, the names would take a whole page if we were to go into it.
Temitope Anthony Reporting for Inside OAU Media