How can we bring back the glory to sport in Nigeria?
Do you see the Super Eagles doing well under the new coach Lars
At 80, do you still maintain your links with sport?
What we have are administrators who put in all their effort into football.
The Nigerian government spent billions of naira on football, but the youths do
not benefit from it because there is no programme that will gulp the money. The
money therefore ends up in some people‘s pocket. In Nigeria, we go after
talented players that some coaches trained and developed in Europe,North Face Ski, whereas there are so many talented youths
within who are being neglected. We do not need to go after players in Europe,Christian Louboutin Wedges, what we should do is to develop
our talented youths and turn them into a brand.
For three months‘ preparation for the next World Cup, we went to Europe to
bring a coach and promised him millions of naira. We neglect our own people and
help other countries build their own resources. The salary that Nigeria will pay
Lars Lagerback can build a standard facility that will be of great benefit to
thousands of youths instead of an individual.
Is it possible to make leadership of the sports federation unattractive?
At Amaltinco, we made history by being the first club in Nigeria to play in
football boots. Clubs at the time played on bare feet and the first team Nigeria
sent to play in England played without boots. We came to Lagos to employ the
late Teslim Balogun to play for Amaltinco. My father offered him everything to
play for us.
I found God through football. One day, we were playing football in school
when a group of European missionaries passed. They stopped to watch the game and
at the end of the match, they called me and my friends and told us that we were
good footballers. We were Christians but they invited us to a programme where
they thought us more about God and Jesus. But they gave us a rule and said we
must not play football on a Sunday.
I am over 80 years now and I still feel like doing what I was doing 40 years
ago. The spirit, soul and body came together to form a man. The Lord needs a
healthy body to do His work. Anointing without a healthy body is useless. If I
sit in a place I will not be able to reach out and tell people about God. I need
to do a lot of things to be healthy and be useful to God.
I would have loved to fight among the best but my father stopped my progress
in the sport. I belonged to the Zik Athletics Cup in Nigeria. My best fight was
against Dick Topin who worked for the West African Pilot. He was the lightweight
champion in Nigeria. I beat him in a non-title match but it was just fun to me.
My father was angry that I was getting involved in the sports too deeply so he
stopped me from boxing citing the case of his friend,Cheap North Face, whose son had his ear drum blown in a boxing
We agreed but three months after, we went back to playing football on
Sundays. We thought they were not coming again. We were playing a Catholic
School one day when a vehicle stopped beside the pitch. I recognised the vehicle
as the one that brought the missionaries the last time we met them. We felt so
bad that we failed to obey a simple rule. After the game, they called us again
and called us ‘scaly wags of the world‘.
But we have youths who aid disruption despite sports‘ popularity in Nigeria.
Recently, people were killed in Jos and majority of those arrested were
It is possible if the government is sincere with the future of the nation. To
ensure that being a chairman or president of sports association and federation
is less attractive to politicians, we need to make sure that there is regular
public statement on how money voted for youth development is spent. Not every
child can go to a university but we can make them useful for the nation and for
themselves through sports and I mean not only football. There is money for all
participants in all sports.
During the All Africa Games in Nigeria, it was mandatory that the host nation
had an association for all sports. Cycling was not popular at the time so nobody
wanted to be a member of the federation which was just formed. Everybody wanted
to be in football. I persuaded the late Gen. Abba Abdukadri, John Eluese, Jimmy
Babalola and Peter Hospidalis, a West Indian who knew the game well, to join me
in putting up a structure on which cycling federation now stands.
With a rich background in football, how did you become cycling federation
We visited Lagos every year for the Governor‘s Cup which later became the
Challenge Cup. We were playing the competition at the King George the fifth
stadium which is now Onikan Stadium. I also represented the Plateau Football
Association on the board of Nigeria Football Association. In Jos, the people
called me the scorpion with the wings because I was very fast and took decision
quickly. Because of sport, I married so late in life.
When I was the chairman of cycling federation, we built a velodrum for the
nation in Abuja. Today, it is useful for several sporting events. How many of
such facility has our sport administrators built with government money? Instead,
they get richer by taking the money home. Everybody wants to be in football
because of the money that government pumps into it. I call on the oil companies,
telecommunications companies and companies in other industries to take up the
challenge and establish football clubs and sports clubs instead of fighting for
sponsorship rights of the Premier League. Sports is money but government‘s
participation will never give the youths the opportunity to develop.
At 80, Rev. Moses Iloh has refused to take a break from physical activities.
He was forced to stop riding bicycle after a commercial bus driver knocked him
down. In this interview with FEMI ATOYEBI, he spoke about the dangers in
allowing politicians to take over sports while the youths are neglected.
I played for the Plateau football team with my elder brother who also worked
for the tin mine company.
We should encourage private ownership of clubs in Nigeria instead of
government funding every club sides. I have told the story of how we played for
clubs founded by companies and individuals in Jos. Why can‘t we have more of
such sport clubs by the companies? Sport is not government business and if it
must be involved, it must be through the grassroots. The local government must
be mandated to build at least an Olympic standard sports facility. It could be a
tennis court, cycling track, boxing gym or swimming pool. There must be coaches
available to train athletes in each of the venues. This will bring employment
and erase vices among the youths because they get busy every day.
Did you ever win a major boxing title?
I was nicknamed scorpion with the wings because of my talent –Iloh
By FEMI ATOYEBI, Published: Saturday, 3 Apr 2010
Apart from boxing, which other sport did you participate in at the top
On Monday I went to the English and phonetic teacher and asked him the
meaning of the words. He said they were bad words and that we should not
associate with those who called us the name. He said they were bad people. My
friends did not go to them again but I was going to meet them. I thought ‘how
can white people be bad people?‘ I started following them to the market to
preach to the people.
We organised cycling for the games and the Europeans who came to watch were
so impressed with the way it went. We were given scholarship to go for training
in Cardiff. The late Abba and I passed while Babalola made a lower grade. Being
the cycling federation president, I was a member of the Nigeria Olympics
Committee. The International Olympic Committee gave me an award for giving life
to cycling in Africa.
You now lead a Christian congregation. How did you come across the cross?
Every country stands on a tripod. One leg is politics, the other leg is
religion while the last one is sport. In Nigeria today, the politics has been
hijacked while religious intolerance has led to the death of thousands of
people. The only one leg that is still holding this country together is sport,
unfortunately, the future of Nigeria is shaky because the only leg it is
standing on is losing strength.
I still do cycling but I know longer do it on the road. Commercial bus
drivers are reckless in Nigeria and, I was knocked down by one of them while
riding a bicycle. My children stopped from resuming after treatment.
I was born into a sports family. My father had a football club on the Plateau
called The Royals. He worked with a British company called Amalgamated Tin Mine
of Nigeria Limited which also had its own football club called Amaltinco. I was
involved in the two teams because I also worked for the company when I returned
from school. As a young child, I was strong and participated in many sports. I
was a boxer and a footballer at the same time. At the Government School, Jos, we
had everything to become whatever we wanted to be.
Boxing teaches a lot of how human beings should relate. After 12 rounds of
fighting, the two boxers come close and hug themselves. The loser goes home to
resume training and aim to be the winner another day. It‘s a challenge to do
better. Nigerian politicians must learn from the way sport is done in the open.
There is fair judgment in sport and losers accept defeat.
What was it like growing up in Jos?
Unfortunately, Nigerians accept the role to lead sporting association because
of what they will get from it not because of what they can contribute. There is
nothing like sports development everywhere in the world. What we have is
developing the youths through sports. That is a philosophy that Nigeria no
longer accept because it involves long term planning, proper administration and
transparency. Everybody cannot be a footballer and that was why I opted out to
develop the youths through cycling. I have a cycling club and it is very
expensive for individual owner to run and for members to be part of it. This is
what the government should do to help our youths.