Players Representative on the board of the Nigeria Cricket Federation (NCF) Endurance Ofem, has lamented the negative toll of the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) on cricket activities in the country.
Ofem who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sports said that despite the halted of cricket activates in the country, the federation has been able to develop the players and official intellectually on the game through virtual training.
‘’Covid-19 is something we don’t like. Before the pandemic, our national team was to compete in an Africa T20 tournament in Kenya, so you see the players must be feeling down they are out of play for over three months, our Female team was to have gone to Rwanda. But I bet you agree its better be alive to play another day” he said.
“However, we took advantage of the situation by organizing virtual meetings, training programmes and a lot of reaching out to our international counterparts on the need to support our players intellectually”.
The former captain of the cricket national team also noted Tafawa Balewa Square Cricket Oval in Lagos and some cricket facilities within the country as witness face lift.
“We also took the opportunity to invest in our Playing surfaces development. We are currently changing the playing surface of TBS cricket oval to turf from astroturf on concrete. So you see, there is an advantage we have taken from the present situation”.
Ofem, however, stated the need for the development of the game at the grassroots to catch and nature young cricketers to stardom.
“The only way is to get the game to schools, we have an interesting population and l am a firm believer of making sure every kid does sports. When we came on board, we started with the 9ja kids’ cricket which we had in over 20 states across the country and 6 geo-political zones. As I speak, we are putting together a programme to expand our junior and grassroots members. Its call the accelerated growth and we are hoping to invest in every state across the country”.
“We are already discussing with states Cricket Associations where applicable and coming up with nominations that will help drive this process in every state of the federation. We shall be giving junior involvement equipment for these programmes and gradually expand the base support in the production line. So in my opinion, we are going in the right direction and l hope once we start, in the next 4 to 5 years, you will see lots of players coming through for our proposed regional academies to look after. One thing we need to do, whoever comes on board, will be to focus on continuity in delivering these programmes’’.
Regarded as one of the best players of his generation, Ofem, 38-year old, featured in several international matches including the International Cricket Council (ICC) League in 2013 and 2014 where he distinguished himself revealed what government must put in place to ensure quality performance from players in competitions.
“One thing is that players cannot give you what they don’t have or you expecting them to give you what you have not given them. One is to change the surface under which they compete locally, create the right coach education environment which simply means exposing them to the best coaches in the world’’.
“Creating a competitive environment through the local tournament for schools, clubs and states at senior level, then International training tours. This way, you can have a good assessment of a player’s ability to perform at international level and trust me, if we can do this, we will be world beaters someday I hope”.
The former ex-international player further appealed to cooperate with organizations to support the development of sports in the country.
“Well, All I can say is that we have been able to drive the game back to the hearts of Nigerians and more people are happy with the game and want to be part of the process. We need the support of the cooperate bodies and government in reaching these desired standards” he concluded.