. . . Meet Young Grass Root Football Developer, TOCHUKWU CLEMENT ONEJEME.
By Uche Enem
(Cont’d from last edition)
Why did you decide to invest in Nigeria irrespective of the challenges?
I know this country is bad but I believe in one thing which is ‘hope’. Once hope is gone, there is nothing left for us. If we can get these children from the streets and cultivate their strength, we could achieve a lot. The reason why I decided to start from the nursery stage in getting children between the ages of 5-7 years was because I wasn’t looking for fast cash. My aim was to achieve grass root development at their very early stage. We want to develop children to become something greater whether we are present to reap from it or not. It’s all about strong passion for children. A lot of children have survived through me because of athletics and they are doing very well. Our day to day routine makes our children so strong and I want to invest on their strength and ability. Nigeria has advantage over other country especially in terms of their weather which is very good for training.
You are based in the USA, so how do you intent achieving and monitoring your Football project here in Nigeria?
Yes, I am having a little challenge here. I will be coming into the country like three times in a year. I also have the plans of hiring some coaches to assist in the project. The coaches will be paid and I will also request for volunteers who will also assist. The coaches who don’t have licenses will be sent for a course to equip them with coaching knowledge. The coaches and volunteers will take those courses practically and even learn some of these courses online. I may not be there every time but I will always keep in communication.
You earlier mentioned that you represented Delta State because of the support and training you received there. So, what’s your advice to Anambra State Government in the areas of sport development?
There is a little problem even now that I am back. I went to Delta State because my home state doesn’t take care of us well. There is no employment, no stipend, no training allowance and even when it is signed, some group of people will squander the money. So, I took all the children I was training to Delta State and those children won medals and were given 1 million Naira each.
At a time I realized home is home and so I decided to go back home. Before I travelled to Nigeria, I wrote to the State Government through the then Commissioner for Sports that it will take me about 2 million to train myself in preparation for the supposed 2016 National Sports Festival. The money will help me get more training tours in USA for Shot Put and Discuss in order to represent Anambra in the Festival.
Finally the Commissioner told me that 500,000 have been approved for me and I signed the required documents but on receiving the money, it was only 300,000. I was pissed off and I told them that it wasn’t what I signed and they sluggishly promised I will get my money later. So when I travelled, I called my mum to go and collect the remaining 200,000 Naira and they kept turning her until she got tired of going to ask them for the money.
So when I came back this year, 2018 and met another new commissioner, I was told that it is now Sports Council and no longer Ministry of Youth and Sports anymore. So I spoke to the Chairman and he said I should forget about it. I explained to him that the approval should be in the file since it was a written document. I told him that I am an Anambra foreign based athlete waiting for the festival to come forth. My time spent with him wasn’t fruitful and so I left.
When it comes to Anambra sports, the administrators don’t know what they are doing and the roles they should play. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the governor or the people working for him. My little experience with some of them at the sports council shows that they know nothing about what they are doing. Recently, I was at Awka Stadium to train the kids I selected after the screening and I noticed that the stadiums was locked. The people that were boxing and wrestling and others who came for different sports couldn’t enter inside the stadiums. We were told that Awka and Onitsha stadium were locked because it was the order from the new Sports Chairman. I said to myself that even if the stadium to be under construction, it shouldn’t be the reason for locking them.
Also, most of the coaches they have in the sports council may not even have coaching license talk more of upgrading. Sports is going nowhere in Anambra State until we change our mentality and attitude towards sports. In Nigeria, most of the athletes that are on the top are from Anambra State but they represent other states because of their ability to sponsor and take responsibility of the athlete. This is a common fact.
Apart from Javelin, Shot put, Discuss, Football and Soccer, What are your other hobbies?
There are nothing more than these. You have all mentioned them.
What’s your favorite colour?
Are you married?
Will you like your children to follow your sports path?
In America, when a child is growing, you have to watch them and see their interest. Wherever direction my children are going, I will lead and follow them. I am not the kind of father that will tell my child what to do. They can become whatever thing they want to be. This is a major problem in Africa where we decide what our children become.
What’s your favorite Meal?
I love beans and plantain but when I come back to Nigeria, I love Akpu and Egusi soup