Let’s talk about something we can all easily relate to. Let’s talk about food.
Birthrights have been sold for it, wars fought over it. It is necessary for survival, it is even more crucial for professional athletes.
I’m no doctor, but I know that, during physical activity, the body needs glucose to function. It gets this by metabolizing what we eat. And if you own an automobile, you know that the type of fuel matters. You cannot power your average salon car or SUV with kerosene. Similarly, heavy duty vehicles, like trucks and tankers, cannot run on petrol.
Where am I going with this? Well, think of us “regular” people as SUVs. Our daily routines and work schedules consist mainly of white-collar stuff. For professional athletes, they perform high-energy bodily functions every single day: they are trucks.
That means that, for them, their fuel ought to be different. Why then do we claim to be running a professional league in Nigeria when there is no oversight regarding how our “professional” players nourish themselves?
You would think our clubs would employ (and use) nutritionists to monitor and draw up meal plans for their players to follow, in order to ensure meals are eaten at the right times, that the right foods for the release of energy are eaten on matchdays. You would be wrong.
Instead, our players eat the same meals, with the same recklessness, as you and I. The same eba, pounded yam, you name it… Wolfed down with huge servings of red meat. Mind, these meals are not necessarily gotten from the most sanitary vendors, oh no. Under trees, in shacks, sitting on benches by a sewage drain. Yes, you know the type. All under the club’s nose, and with their endorsement.
To be fair, this isn’t simply a failing on the part of the clubs. The players themselves are also culpable. As a footballer, your body is your workspace and your toolkit, and you are aware of this. If the club fails in its responsibility to ensure that the player it has purchased for an exorbitant fee gets the proper nutrition to do the job he is being paid an exorbitant amount to do, what should you do about it?
Commonsense would dictate that you get a nutritionist and consult on feeding plans. Many of them complain about how they’re not treated like Cristiano Ronaldo. Well, guess what? Up until this summer, Ronaldo played for the richest club in the world. He still employed and paid a physical therapist from his own pocket, and invested in equipment to aid his fitness and recovery. The man is still going strong at an age where most would have packed up.
Alright then, so you don’t want to spend the huge sums you’re paid as salary for this. Understandable; in Nigeria, money can go very quickly once immediate and extended families open their beaks and cry. Get on the internet then, with those expensive phones you own, and Google ‘meal plans for professional athletes’. Go from there. It really is that simple.
Instead, we have a system such as we do now. Much as we are sympathetic to the plight of the players, they must bear some of the responsibility themselves. It seems both sides instead try to cut costs and shortchange the other. As the pidgin saying goes, “Cunny man die, cunny man bury am”