Editor’s note: British boxer Anthony Joshua whose roots can be traced to Nigeria recovered from the first knockdown of his professional career to defeat Wladimir Klitschko in an enthralling heavyweight contest to become the new IBF and WBA Champion.
As Nigerians continue to shower accolades on the 27-year-old for his feat, NAIJ.com guest author Taiwo Okanlawon, posited that Joshua does not belong to Nigeria as he was rejected when he mattered most.
Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua knocked-out Wladimir Klitschko in heavyweight title fight – as it happened, many Nigerians are thrilled, yes I'm too. He made history.
He defeated the fierce Ukrainian, a long time heavyweight champion, whose boxing carrier started same year Joshua was born, 27 years ago.
The new world champion was once Klitschko's sparing partner also; although that's not where I'm driving my point to.
I'm writing this due to some social media status, tweets, where many attributed the recent victory to Nigeria where Joshua's parents originated from.
I read a news where vice president Yemi Osinbajo discussed how Nigerians are doing incredibly innovative stuffs, where he referred to Joshua as Nigerian Boxer. Hell no!
Some other people are also saying "proudly Nigerian", "You made us proud" and so on. I have also read some online regarding him as Nigerian British based boxer, really? Based?
To set the records straight, Joshua is a British professional boxer not Nigerian-UK based, not because he has Nigerian blood, but because British is everything he his. He made Britain proud.
You can make inquiries about the lad, standard media outlets will never call him a Nigerian, check Wikipedia, read history about him.
Britain will tell you he is the apple of their eyes as far as boxing is concerned. My question to Nigeria, how will you claim him?
Well, Joshua said his heart still belongs to Nigeria despite being rejected by the country’s boxing officials about a decade ago.
If you don't know about Joshua, let give an insight. He was born in Watford (UK) to a Nigerian mother and a British father of Nigerian and Irish descent.
His cousin is a fellow unbeaten professional boxer Ben lleyemi. The pair made their professional debuts together in 2013.
Joshua grew up for some of his early years in Ijebu Ode, Ogun state, Nigeria and returned to the UK halfway.
The IBF, WBA champion hustled his way to the top, he was a hustler, a bricklayer and infact, a symbol of hard work. Yet, he left one of the most developed countries in the sphere and came to Nigeria.
There is nothing wrong in doing that, for the love of his roots. Just like Paul Pogba who is playing for France while his elder brother Mathias Fassou Pogba is a Guinean professional footballer.
Joshua came to Nigeria to connect to his roots and wanted a chance to compete for trials ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics qualifiers, but was denied and not given a chance.
He was disappointed by the same people that now see him as their champion. He went back to England to represent Great Britain. At the Olympics, he won a gold that could have been a first for Nigeria at the Olympics and not Great Britain’s.
The once rejected by Nigerian Boxing officials, Joshua caught global attention and became a darling of boxing fans Saturday night, April 29, after the epic bout with Wladimir Klitschko, at the Wembley Stadium in England.
For me, on that historic night, Nigeria lost and Britain won. Why are we now claiming Joshua as our champion? He's not representing us, he's not training with our facilities, what's now the euphoria about?
Well, maybe if he had represented Nigeria at that time he would not have won gold at the Olympics. And possibly, even if he had won, he may not have achieved what he is achieving now.
Being born in England gives him a certain amount of preference and because he is representing them, he also gets a lot of support; good management and world class preparation, which Nigeria lacks.
Joshua now scintillating 19-0 record, following his win over Klitschko, with all of the 27-year-old’s victories coming inside the distance.
We need to wake up to reality, Anthony Joshua victory is not ours, it is Britain's victory.
There are several questions running through my head and some other concerned Nigerians, why was Joshua rejected 9 years ago?
Who were the 'officials' that rejected him? Those officials should be made to explain why it was impossible to give him a chance, amongst others.
It's high time we call on government and other stakeholders to checkmate the activities ongoing in all commissions, agencies, ministries in our country.
The development of Sports in Nigeria has deteriorated in recent times and this is particularly caused by a lack of proper governance and sports strategy.
No single medal was won in the 2012 and 2016 London and Rio Olympics respectively.
Like in every other ministries, Nigeria Sports ministry has been found culpable of high-leveled corruption, bad governance, as well as incompetence of some officials and this has led to many failed and aborted outings at the world stage.
Many of the complaints from athletes are always about the lack of adequate training facilities, lack of funds and support from the government. How some of these athletes use their personal funds to sponsor themselves.
The situation is not really encouraging, everything is wrong with Nigeria. The overall institutional framework for sport is also faulty. There is no functional system.
Nigerians are amazing people. The country is so endowed with a lot of talents, but there is no right coaches and support system that would help improve sports are missing.
With all the talents we have, with no funding, sports can never improve and we will lose the likes of Joshua we still have.
Anthony Joshua is just one of many cases that Nigeria should learn from, that we need to hold on to what we have before we lose it.
We can only hold to those things we have by providing necessary needs for our athletes. The Nigerian government should put the right people in right place. Right facilities in places and adequate funds.
If Nigeria government makes this a reality, many Joshuas will be discovered, many Okagbares are waiting to be noticed and green white green flag will take its rightful place in the world of sports.
Taiwo Okanlawon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAIJ.com.
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