It is no more news that former Nigerian national team wing wizard, Segun Odegbami has joined the gubernatorial race in Ogun for the 2019 election. Wasimi and indeed Ogun state in general has been buzzing since July 18 that Odegbami formally declared.
Odegbami, who guided Nigeria to her first Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title at the 1980 tournament at home, is running on the platform of Labour Party.
The 65 year old one-time FIFA Presidential hopeful, who owns a school – Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy (SOCA) – has since begun his campaign.
The location of his school, Wasimi in Ogun state is currently host to a summer football clinic/tournament. Mathematical writes thus in his ‘Political Dairy – Day 15’:
Last Saturday, in my little village of Wasimi, the third edition of a summer football clinic and tournament started. I went there to see and to feel how it was going.
The village is full to the brim with visitors. People are milling everywhere, a continuous stream heading in and out of the Baptist Primary School grounds, 200 metres off the Abeokuta – Lagos Express road at Wasimi.
Wasimi tourney has more participating players than the FIFA World Cup
Some 58 kiddies football clubs, each with a maximum of 18 players, made up of vacationing boys from schools from all over Ogun State and some parts of Lagos State, are in town.
Brought by their local club coaches and school games masters, the players are all between the ages of 10 and 15.
That means there are more players assembled in Wasimi than there were from the 32 countries at the 2018 World Cup that just ended in Russia.
‘Football is more than life and death’
Forgive me, I mentioned 400 in my diary two days ago. There are over 1000 young boys each with a dream, following their passion for a sport that is now a global industry providing endless career and engagement opportunities for billions of the world’s population (directly and indirectly) in what may be the biggest, most profitable, and most followed human activity – football!
We can only underestimate its place at our own deficit.
I recall the eternal words of Bill Shankly, former manager of the England national football team: ‘Football is more than life and death’.
The evidence is in Wasimi presently.
Over 1000 children left their homes, living gladly in a village without most ordinary amenities under very harsh conditions, with mats as beds and a snack a day as meals.
They play matches from dawn to dusk on a field that looks like a horse–training ground, with undulating baked earth struggling for space with scanty grass stubs.
About soccer clinic
Two years ago, this football clinic tournament started on the campus of the Segun Odegbami International College and Sports Academy (SOCA). It was a modest attempt to draw attention to the school and its mission to prove the efficacy, feasibility and benefits of promoting sports development within an academic environment, as it used to be in the ‘good old days’.
Sport is about good health, complete education, career and job creation opportunities, possibility of fame and fortune, and, these days, political power.
The combination of sports and education is ‘paradise’. I have sung that song for over two decades and nothing has changed anywhere except probably in tokens in Lagos and Cross River States.
The attraction to Wasimi is the track record attached to my name.
In the past 8 years, the smallest secondary school in Nigeria has prepared and sent to American Colleges and universities, an average of 6 to 7 ‘complete’ students on full scholar/academic scholarships, every year!
This year alone, of the 14 students that graduated from SS3, 10 of them have secured admissions and scholarships on merit and are processing their visas to proceed to the United States to continue their studies and pursue their passion in sport.
One of the students from last year’s event joined SOCA from Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, a school of great renown, the alma mater of leaders like MKO Abiola, Olusegun Obasanjo, Gbenga Daniel amongst others, where his father was a teacher.
Father and son are the cheerleaders and ambassador of this year’s event, the father proudly sharing his good fortune with everyone around Wasimi, and son, showing off his new playing skills that have secured him passage to America in a few weeks’ time for a new life and a secured future through football and academics
That’s why there are well over 1000 students chasing a similar dream in an ongoing free clinic/tournament in Wasimi which has suddenly become a social and commercial hub in Ewekoro Local Government Area.
Visitors now outnumber the residents of the town. Commercial activity is booming like never before. All available spare rooms and bed spaces are taken up by children and their officials, and families are making brisk business letting out their rooms.
A Mini-World Cup is on in Wasimi! It will last the next two weeks.
I am inviting all that are interested to go share in the unique experience. I had my own share last Saturday.
It was the best unofficial political ‘rally’ I can ever imagine.
Not a single address was made by anyone.
No promises, no lies.
The environment and atmosphere spoke.
The fire of hope was everywhere. You could it in the eyes of the young boys waiting to have their turn to play.
They waited for me to show up for the last match of the day. I saw and was dazed by the population of spectators within and outside the fence of the small school.
It reminded me of the days of Haruna Ilerika and Stephen Keshi and co, when students packed stadiums during their matches.
I was met by a milling crowd of organisers, baales, area boys serving as the security agents, and a sea of children, most of them in jerseys chanting ‘incoming, incoming, incoming’, those words that I dislike so much but now sounding melodic and prophetic coming from the mouths of children!
This was the atmosphere of Liberty stadium, Ibadan all over again.
I must have embraced a hundred bodies and taken more hands than I can ever count.
It was an incredible sight and experience.
‘Odegbami, Odegbami, it is a gooooal!’
I took the traditional handshake with the two lined-up teams and match officials, followed by the kick off.
I was properly kitted in my stylishly torn jean shorts, a flowery tee shirt, my number 7 face cap and black canvas shoes.
It was an opportunity to do a little showoff, the last remnant of my football skills, that I dare any political leader in Ogun State to attempt!! Hahaha!
I snapped bot feet against the base of the ball and it lifted into the air. I juggled the ball twice and lobbed it into the air, to the rapturous cheers of the crowd.
‘Odegbami, Odegbami, it is a gooooal’
It was a rally without a voice. The singing and cheering from the excited crowd provided my ultimate manifesto.
As I left the ground of Baptist Primary School, Wasimi, I entered a familiar mental place reserved for sports persons on the verge of their greatest challenge, when the odds are stacked against them and expectations are low because they do not have the resources, the experience or the structures.
To win matches under those conditions is to achieve their greatest triumphs.
I remember a group of under-16 Nigerian youths in China in 1985.
The ‘miracle of Daman’ in 1989.
I remember the Super Eagles in 1994
Remember Kanu and co in Atlanta in 1996.
Chioma Ajunwa also in 1996.
I recall the Green Eagles in 1980.
The spirit that lifted all to surmount those challenges is the same spirit burning inside of me as I drive away from Wasimi towards Abeokuta in the great and exciting political challenge just ahead.
To all sports persons around the world, young and old, active and retired, boys and girls, athlete and spectator, parents and guardians wishing and looking for the best for their children through sports and education, the moment of truth has arrived.
Come join me and let us show the world what sport can do to change the political paradigm of Ogun State.
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