The European leagues go on a short break this weekend. So, I sheath my first football analysis and comments this season until later.
This weekend also, Nigeria’s Super Eagles will play their first international match under their new coach, Gernot Rohr. There is only one thing at stake in the match –national pride. Only a good performance will loosen the noose around the neck of the NFF.
In the absence of these two issues, permit me to steer this page in a more personal direction.
Last Saturday afternoon, I had to pinch myself over and over again to ensure that I was not dreaming, it was my birthday!
As usual I did not mark it in any way. But to my greatest shock and pleasant surprise, no other birthday had been as elaborately and as massively marked for me as was done by hundreds (probably over a thousand) of friends on several social media platforms.
I do not know how it started or who started it but I saw the handwriting of my children as well as close friends in the unscripted conspiracy to celebrate me as lavishly as they did whilst I am still alive and kicking to experience this avalanche of encomiums, praises and goodwill messages that left me thoroughly humbled and grateful!
That day, and indeed for days after that, the messages kept coming with people’s kind words a soothing balm to my troubled mind agitated by the shameful poor state of Nigerian sports with its dilapidated infrastructure, mediocre administration and a history littered with the plight of forgotten, neglected and disrespected former sports heroes languishing in poverty and poor health.
I am very blessed and privileged to receive these wonderful, unsolicited, unearned and totally unexpected effusions of encouraging and spiritually uplifting words, prayers and goodwill messages whilst I am still alive.
I thank my Creator for the opportunity to be able to respond and say Thank You to every one of them for their unrequited show of love and friendship. Not everyone is that lucky or gifted by the universe.
All of this now challenge me and reinforce my commitment, to continue to add my little bit to the effort of all others determined to make a difference in the world!
The Story Of Taofeek Abiodun
Still on personal matters, I ask everyone to read this.
I stumbled on a young man some weeks ago whose story, I believe, would one day make a fairytale blockbuster movie. He is 17 going on 18 years of age and from Oyo State, Nigeria.
Two years ago, he withdrew from the public secondary school he was attending because he was being bullied by fellow students who took his massive physique as an object of daily ridicule. Life was hell. He could not walk on the street where he lived with his parents without people harassing him with taunts. He was the butt of jokes and name-calling.
He became a psychological wreck and recluse locking himself up indoors for almost two years. Slowly and steadily he was wasting away as his esteem and self-confidence were being gradually sucked out of him.
He would always curse the day he was born different from all other children.
Abiodun’s ‘abnormality’ is that he is a big lad. He is probably the tallest 18 year old not only in the city of Ibadan but in Nigeria. He stands 7ft 2inches tall with a slight stoop that may be the result of his subconscious effort to make himself look shorter. His feet are size 53.
The good news is that in the past three months, Abiodun has been introduced to basketball by a concerned neighbor who also got in touch with me and wanted me to intervene and to help the young man.
I jumped at the offer, grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the future of this young exceptional gift from God to sport. A boy with the physical attributes that Abiodun in any other clime but Nigeria has an almost certain route to becoming a sports hero. So, the plan is to prepare him well with proper guidance to become one in the next few years
Needless to go into the rest of what has transpired since meeting him. The long and short of it is that the young man now already walks the streets of his neighbourhood with a confident swagger and a spring in his steps. Bolstered by the assurances of a new life, he cannot wait for the end of September when he would return to school at The International Sports Academy, Wasimi Orile, Ogun State.
He has been enrolled into the basketball programme in the school under the tutelage of former Nigerian international basketball player and national team coach, Alabi Adelanwa.
For two years this specialist institution will welcome him, celebrate him, train him, hone his natural physical endowments and prepare him to pass his O’ levels and SAT examinations. He will, thereafter, be warmly embraced by several American colleges and universities that will offer full scholar-athletic scholarships in exchange for his signature in the summer of 2018, God willing.
I am peering into the future.
By the age of 22, Abiodun will graduate with a degree from an American University. He will be a solid basketball player good enough to play Centre for the Nigerian national basketball team to either Tokyo in 2020 or, more likely, to the 2024 Olympics.
When he returns to Nigeria one day Nigerians would line both sides of the streets of Ibadan, (as they did in Lagos when Hakeem Olajuwon returned to the country in the 1990s) to welcome and celebrate their son, once a timid, harassed, intimidated and bullied young man who would be returning to them as a global sports megastar.
But there is a small challenge. Abiodun’s education and training for the next two years in the International Sports Academy have to be funded.
Are there any persons or organisations willing to take the ‘risk’, shore up their own treasures in heaven by supporting this young man’s education? Let them reach out to me immediately, I'll be waiting!
Segun Odegbami International College And Sports Academy
In October 2016, The International Sports Academy, the specialist secondary school that I founded with the help and support of some committed friends and organisations, will be ten years old since it opened its doors to students. There will be a massive ceremony next January.
As a result of limited publicity and it’s small population of students (it is actually intended not to take more than 120 students at full capacity) only very few people know that whilst it is called a sports academy, it is actually, first and foremost, a fully fledged secondary school with extremely high academic standards.
It is the only such school in Nigeria that combines its academics with a very intensive and rigorous multi-sports regimen that prepares young boys and girls for the possibility of a lucrative life in professional sports after their studies.
Each year, the school admits a maximum of only 20 students into its 6 classes and in the past 5 years it has provided a smooth and easy passage for over 20 of its graduates entirely on merit, into American colleges and universities, on full scholarships, where they are effectively combining their sports with academics. The lads are in paradise!
At the start of the next academic session this September, the school, this laboratory of learning, will be changing its name and will introduce an academic teaching and learning methodology, driven by technology, guaranteed to serve as a model for academic re-engineering in the country.
The change of name is so that it captures its real character and mission, and dispels all misconceptions and lack of understanding about the nature of the school.
The school’s new name shall be ‘Segun Odegbami International College And Sports Academy’.
My vision is to make it the best such school in the world, combining the highest level of scholarship with the highest level and discipline in sports, producing great athletic champions as well as future leaders in every one of the lucky students.
The school is my gift and legacy to Nigeria and the world! This is an advertisement, admission into the school is now open!