Barrister Churchill Oliseh, President of FC Ebedei says sports can arguably be used to ensure a deep and sustained systematic change in culture, civilization, and even religious faith.
Oliseh, a lawyer and football investor, was the speaker at this year’s Breeding Leaders for Empowerment And National Transformation (BLENT), hosted by Dr. Mike Okonkwo, the Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) and broadcasted from TREM’s international headquarters, in Gbagada, Lagos to all branches across the world.
The President of the Nigeria National League (NNL) club, in his 5-page detailed lecture titled: “The impact of Sport on societal transformation: The Nigerian Football Story”, talked about how sports can do social transformation via the economy it drives, national identity, and unity it gives.
The health and physical well-being, it sustains and improves. The youth development it facilitates, employment it generates, and revenue and foreign exchange it earns. The infrastructural revolution it brings and encourages, as most developed nations see sport as the fourth arm of their military.
Listening with rapt attention, Oliseh, a football administrator guru and motivational speaker held the massive TREM auditorium spellbound while giving details about Nigeria’s golden era in football, with unbroken records, and how the era ended.
“Empirically football was introduced into Nigeria with the assistance and activities of the early missionaries. With time it became a vehicle for city congregation and representation. So we had teams like Port Harcourt XI, Ibadan XI, Enugu XI. It grew and by the 40s and 50s, we had attained a national team for Nigeria.
“The Golden Era saw Nigeria qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 1994 and a 2nd Round finish, win the 1994 African Cup of Nations in Tunisia, Olympic gold medal in Atlanta USA, in 1996, and qualify for its second Mundial in France.
“In the millennium, the Nigerian flag was visibly present at the Japan/Korea World Cup in 2002. In club football, Enyimba became the first Nigerian team to win a back-to-back CAF Champions League after winning it in 2003.
“Nigeria became a global brand, feared and loved, even the military regimes of the day leveraged our football success. We spoke in one voice and proudly sang the national anthem and saluted the Nigerian flag.
“Unfortunately, the ease and fortuitous nature of our attaining the golden era became our undoing, due to the absence of a policy/program to replace the players of that era.
“Deliberate global policy to deny Nigeria and Africa access to the foreign Resources and technology Africa relied on in conquering and challenging the World. Hijack of Nigerian football by incompetence, ineptitude, maladministration, and outright banditry.”
Above all ‘The Qatar Story’ model is an eye-opener on why sport can impact societal transformation. A nation, he said, was previously in the shadows of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E), seen as an area that had nothing to offer. But with their natural gas wealth, Qatar sought a societal transformation and chose football/sports as the medium.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup cost Qatar an estimated: – $200B/ N150 Trillion in infrastructure and $6.5B/#5.2 trillion on stadium construction. The Qatar minister for finance once admitted to spending $500m/ N400B weekly for many years on infrastructure towards hosting the world cup.