Explosive Interview with the President of Nigeria Cycling Federation

Explosive Interview with the President of Nigeria Cycling Federation
May 19 14:44 2019 Print This Article

…………Our Achievements Can Be Measured By Athletes

By Ben Nwachukwu

President of Nigeria Cycling Federation, Engr. Giadomenico Massari and his board have been working tirelessly in their bid to return the sport to its deserved place in the global map. This desire has driven them to take rigorous steps that only those that have vowed to achieve a goal regardless of the cost can take. Such steps saw them embarking on training and retraining the Coaches, Commissars, mechanics, and everyone that would be useful to train the athletes and prepare them for major competitions both on the continent and the globe. It was as a result of this effort that the world cycling body, UCI awarded the country the hosting right for the African Cup in Abuja in July. In this interview withwww.theajasanews.com, he spoke on the achievements of the NCF, the African Cup and a host of other issues. Read on   

How would you assess the board of Cycling under your leadership over one year now

Our achievement can be measured by what the athletes are doing. It is not a parochial thing. One of junior cyclists, a female, is ranked 5th in the world in The Point Race Track by International Cycling Union (UCI). She has a total of 540 points. We have achieved many feats particularly in Road Race and now we are glad to secure the velodrome for our use. Recall that the velodrome has been practically inactive for many years, since inception. It was brought back to life shortly before the last National Sports Festival and that’s when started using it for our training. Imagine that within a short period of time, within one month, these two junior and senior athletes went to South Africa and won 7 medals, 5 Silver and 2 bronze medals. So we are excited. If they did very well with short preparation, then imagine what will happen if they receive adequate training and right equipment?

One good thing is that the velodrome is a state of the art facility, one of the best in the world. We are intensifying effort in Road race as well as track. In the Road Race, we have won a lot of laurels .At the Youth African Games in Eritrea, we got silver and gold, and in the last All Africa Games we got silver and gold in female category. Even last year we had good outing in a competition in Ghana for West Africa, we won gold in the male category. Certainly things are improving and interest is picking up.

Following the successes I have listed, we were awarded the hosting right for the 1st edition of Africa Track championship (Africa Cup) that will hold here in Abuja July 26, 27, and 28. We will invite all cycling federations in Africa to come and compete for the various medals at stake. I hope Nigeria will excel in this competition.

What preparations is the federation making to ensure that we host the championship and also perform well

You know there are two types of preparations; the athletes’ preparation and organizational preparation. In the athletes’ preparation, we have sponsored a two week training programme running from April 28th to May 12 at the velodrome. We invited all the states male and female, elite and junior to participate. This type of preparation is very good and we have very good response from them. As I speak, we have over 90 cyclists (male and females), elite and junior that are participating .and they came from virtually all states of the federation. All six geopolitical zones are represented. We are happy, even zones where cycling as sports never existed are showing interest now probably because they are seeing the development. For us it is a great thing that cycling is now growing and is being accepted in all the six geopolitical zones making it one of the fastest growing sports in the country. However we are yet to arrive there but we will surely get the destination. We also invited some West African countries and the federations honoured our invitation. We have cyclists from Benin Republic and Ghana. It is important to see that we are ready to accommodate all of them; we have started on a very successful note with our selection to pick the best for the competition in July (which is the African cup). We have already qualified for the World Junior Championship (male and female) coming up in Germany from August 14-18. We also have the All Africa Games (AAG) which is for the seniors coming in Morocco in August. The AAG is Road Cycling but the African cup is Track. So we have to prepare very well and seriously too to make sure we win many laurels.

In this training we have included two courses for coaches in Track Cycling and Commissars, we hope to train 20 coaches and 25 commissars in three days. We are doing this to upgrade all areas of the cycling family. It is very important we so this before the Cup.

For the Africa Cup, we have a massive preparation that hopefully will be supported by UCI, two weeks before the championship. That will create room for two weeks intensive training for athletes and it will athletes from African regions. There will also be training courses for coaches and commissars where certificate will be awarded. The instructors will be coming from UCI. Those who excel in the exams will be elevated, and that will raise the standard of the sport among the best in the world professionally. Already we have set up a special committee for screening of members of all the categories, including clubs. This is to ensure that our licences are in the hands of only qualified persons. This is the way we can make progress.

In line with this we have already started with UCI training and last November we had UCI instructors that trained our coaches, about 18 of them and they came from different part of the country.

It appears we will soon begin to reap the benefit of the Velodrome.

The velodrome was built specifically for track race. It can be used for other indoor sports events. But I want to tell you track race is one of the highest specialties in Cycling. I can also tell you this is one of the disciplines of the sport that Nigerian athletes have very great potentials. In Road Race we have shown great potentials particularly the females,. They are giving evidence that they can get to the top of their game. The boys are not at that level but they can get there. On track Nigerian athletes have great advantage, the average Nigerian athlete has great strength, potential power and are good in sprints, in  short range. With short preparation we went to South Africa and got medals. There is potential and high possibility for males. This very category is even good preparation for Road race because if you see those who are champions in the roads race, they have already made preparation on track. We have a big advantage moreover the facility is here and we are not building it new. It is not a waste because there is room to train people as masseurs, mechanics, athletes’ coaches and commissars. In a way it is a complete industry

What other preparation are you making for the Africa Cup

The Africa cup is a big task ahead of us. If the programme is successful, it is a success not on for Cycling Federation but for Nigeria. We intend to raise the standard. We are also thinking of incorporating a sort of partnership that will showcase Nigerian made cultural artifacts, fashion, food etc. We want to use it to showcase young promising fashion designers; we want a situation where we forge collaboration with fashion. We also want to use the event to put Nigeria again on the global map by bringing past icons of the sport like world champions in Cycling to be the face of the event and testimonial of the sport. We want to create a show that goes beyond championship, attract interest for sport and visitors and tourist to Nigeria. Our desire is to showcase Nigeria in a manner that it will positively attract attention of the world media, like CNN, BBC Arjazzerra. For us the image of Nigeria is very important.

What you are planning requires huge capital outlay. Have you got sponsors for this event and how much are you looking at

We have initiated discussions with potential sponsors and friends of the sport. We have initiated Talos, I don’t want to disclose who and who at this time. Because we want to attract sponsor not just to do a promotion of one sport  event  but sponsors that will enjoy the challenge of promoting people of Nigeria in their various endeavour, through the sport of Cycling and the Fashion I talked about. And of course the sponsor is promoting the country and at same time you the sponsor will be associating your brand with an event that showcases the best part of the country. We want to do this to promote the country, the youth of Nigeria and engage in a lifelong career through Cycling. Others who see this will be attracted. Sports generally are an avenue to nurture the youth to greatness, give them hope. It is an opportunity for the youth. When you give hope to the youth, you are battling the vices that you have the society, the restiveness, the criminality, and you are giving opportunity for them to have a career, to earn a living and leave a last portrait on the society. As I said embracing the sport and creating the kind of chain we have in Cycling, you are creating a career you are starting when you start riding, and after you retire, you can continue as a coach, commissar, mechanic, masseur or any other part. So you have a life long career.

As regards the Africa Cup, what challenges are you facing now? We now have the velodrome, are you saying everything is set

Well the facility is basically set because it was built to be of high standard, despite the passage of time the facility is okay. The only challenge we have is that when it was built in 2003, it was not a requirement to have an internal transparent barrier separating the track from the inner part. But now it is a requirement, since it was introduced in 2005, before it can be certified for use.

They have come to inspect the velodrome and they say it is okay except the barrier. Once we put the barrier, we get certification. That is why we are pleading with the ministry to assist us with this. I hope they will do this for us because the asset is not our own, it is the ministry’s. At the end it will raise the value of the asset, and only that can guarantee its certification by UCI. After that any type of international event can be held here. In went to the minister myself and the permanent secretary. I think they are trying to see what can be done. They say they are waiting for the budget that has just been passed. Then there are minor things like repainting the lines, those are minor things, all other parts are okay. We are very lucky to have such infrastructure and at this state. But like I told you, they have an event like the Africa Cup requires funding and we are looking for more than one sponsor. We are looking for consortium of sponsors. One sponsor is good but two, three sponsors can share the cost and at the end they will have a very good appearance. We are looking to staging an event that leaves international impression.

What about equipment, the track bikes, do we have the bikes

We have six track bikes but this is not enough. We are planning to have 30 cycles plus the promise UCI made to donate 20 bikes. There other things I am not disclosing, they are supposed to be in the pipeline and UCI has assured us. This location is going to be one of UCI Satellite Centres in the world. At the moment, there’s South Africa, Egypt and this will be for the whole West Africa region. It’s a great opportunity; we have good athletes and now the infrastructure.

When it comes to cycling, Giro De Italia and Tour d’France, and these are massive events. When do you think our Cycling will get off this incubation stage

It is a long road. Let me tell you. Who started Cycling as a professional sport, it was France followed by Italy. We have Tour du France and immediately two years after ,Giro De Italia but how many  years ago was that 1900. So we have more than 120 years of distance to catch! Nigeria is not starting now, we started before and we have made some good achievement in the past, eventually everything declined for some reason but now we are ready to climb back but we have this gap. Notwithstanding we have had good achievement in Road Cycling, especially the female. We are very proud of them. But we have started to create a change but we must also create a succession plan so that young athletes can always take from aging ones. So we are planning seriously to host the Nigerian championship around October/ November. We also want to resuscitate Tour of Nigeria, it is top on agenda. This is the way to grow the sport.

Recently Confederation of Africa Cycling, CAC, appointed you the Head of its Marketing Commission, how will the appointment benefit the Africa Cup.

Sometimes some appointment tears you between two poles. Being there you think CAC and here you think Nigeria. In any way we can synergize to get benefit to Nigeria and benefit to all Africa Cycling family. I am planning to secure sponsor that can sponsor here and there. We have to create programme that will attract sponsors, invest in Cycling, and invest in people. We also note that the Cycling as an activity has Heath benefit and this is what we have been doing. It also benefits the environment and decongests traffic. So embracing it, people get benefit for themselves, the environment and the society.

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