Bayelsa State on Sunday, August 8, 2021, made history as its two football teams, Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens won both the male and female versions of the prestigious Aiteo Cup competition.
The historical element of the victory stems from the fact that since the inception of the competition in 1945, up until when the female version was added not too long ago, no state had won both the male and female versions in one single season.
It will be recalled that the Aiteo Cup has undergone several metamorphoses since its inception. It started as Governor’s Cup from which it changed to Nigeria FA Cup (1954-1959) and later Nigeria Challenge Cup (1960-1998) before it took on the name Coca-Cola FA Cup (1999-2008). Between 2009 and 2016, the competition was known as Nigeria Federation Cup before taking its present name in 2017 when the Aiteo Group took up sponsorship of the competition.
On the way to the final, both Bayelsa United and Bayelsa Queens, displayed unqualified skills, showed grit and determination and demonstrated an unquenchable desire and hunger to win and conquer the Nigerian football scene.
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Skill, determination and desire to win are all necessary ingredients for success but something else is still required. The missing element is motivation, which is said to be the foundation of all athletic effort and accomplishment. Motivation is the process that initiates, guides and maintains goal-oriented behaviour. Simply put, motivation is the ability to initiate and persist at a task.
Sports psychologists think that of all the factors that affect performance in sports, motivation is the most important. Without motivation, all the other factors – ability, mental and psychological state, confidence, focus – are meaningless. In a field of fit and equally talented athletes, it is the motivation that gives the ultimate winner the edge, the push to succeed.
On the day of the Aiteo Cup final the Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri did what not too many state chief executives would think of doing. He dispatched a high-powered government delegation led by the state Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo to travel to Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, the venue of the Aiteo Cup final, to drum support for the two state-owned teams.
He did not stop there. At the interval of the crunch tie between Bayelsa United and Nasarawa United, when the score stood at zero all, he put a call through to the chairman alongside the other officials as well as the players of Bayelsa United and charged the team to go all out to win the match and make the state proud. He made a promise that if they succeed, the team will be well rewarded.
The governor had earlier put a similar call across to the chairman of Bayelsa Queens, Robin Appeal. The Technical Adviser of Bayelsa Queens, Moses Aduku, who confirmed the call by the governor, said Diri charged the team not to let the state down, having come thus far. Expectedly, both the male and female team’s defeated their respective opponents.
Niger Delta Connect gathered that a few days earlier, Governor Diri had equally put a long-distance call across to Tokyo, the venue of the 2020 Olympic Games and had spoken with Bayelsa-born wrestler, Blessing Oborududu, who was warming up for her epic, final clash with Marianna Stock-Mensah of the United States of America. Blessing, who was battling with a knee injury, missed clinching the gold medal but she gave Nigeria a precious silver medal, the highest the country had at the Games.
When asked if the governor’s half time phone call had any impact on the players, technical adviser of Bayelsa United, Diepreye Teibowei asked “What other motivational factor can be more than the Governor’s half time pep talk to the management, technical crew and players, in addition to the governor’s promise to increase the bonus for this particular match?”
On his part, the board chairman of Bayelsa United, Ebiki Timitimi quipped, “the call from Governor Douye Diri to the players during the halftime break, along with his words of encouragement and also the announcement to increase their match bonus, was so very important. It was the game-changer”.
Also contributing to the issue of motivation in sports, the chairman, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Bayelsa State Council, Datonye Alamo said :
“That call was the tonic that spurred the players to victory. It is called positive reinforcement in psychology. Getting a direct call like that, especially from the Governor, served as a morale booster for the players. That call was certainly the difference that triggered the zeal of the team to go for the kill in the second half”.
The Youths Sports Federation (YSFON) National Vice President, South-South, Kali Gwegwe has this to say: “Motivation plays an important role in propelling athletes to go the extra mile in achieving positive results. There are three types of motivation. We have the financial, fan base and hero motivation. What Governor Douye Diri did was hero motivation. As governor of Bayelsa State, the half-time telephone call awakened a consciousness among the players and officials that the symbol of authority of the state is interested in the outcome of their endeavour”.
“It is natural for people to want to please their leaders. The situation is no different with players and officials of Bayelsa United. In addition to adding more feathers to their caps, they would want to please the governor, especially for all the good things he has been doing for them. They expect that doing the state proud will move the governor to do more”.
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Exactly a week after placing the calls to the leadership of both teams and promising to reward the players, Governor Diri kept to his word as he splashed more than N80 million on the players and officials, in appreciation of their heroic effort.
At an official reception held in Government House, Yenagoa, in honour of the footballers, the governor announced the sum of one million nairas each for the top 25 registered players of both teams while the technical advisers of both teams smiled home with N1.3m each.
The naira rain also filtered down to the other players, not among the 25 registered players. They were given N500,000 each. The chairmen of both teams were not left out as they were rewarded with N1.5m each just as the board members of both teams received a million naira each.
The governor equally directed the immediate release of two Coaster buses to both football teams. In the same vein, Senator Diri gave immediate approval for the upgrade of the Samson Siasia Sports Complex as well as the wrestling gym.
Bayelsa-born Tokyo Olympic silver medallist, Blessing Oborududu, received the sum of four million nairas while her coach, Victor Kodi, who is himself a former wrestling champion, was given a million naira.
Speaking earlier at the reception, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Daniel Igali, thanked Senator Diri for the exceeding support to the teams, which he said are now the toast of all Bayelsans. He had equally appealed for the upgrading of the state stadium as Bayelsa United would be representing the country in the CAF Confederation Cup in a month and would be using the Samson Siasia Stadium as their home ground.
Governor Douye Diri can be said to have the Midas Touch when it comes to sports. One would not be far from correct if one addressed him as a child of destiny, especially if one considers the circumstance under which he emerged as governor of Bayelsa State.
It will be recalled that it was during his tenure as commissioner of sports development (2006) that the state had its best outing (as at then) at the biennial National Sports Festival (NSF), placing a commendable 4th on the log. This year, as governor, Diri pushed the bar a notch higher as Bayelsa came 3rd at the 2020 National Sports Festival.
Not done with his achievement at the NSF, the self-styled Miracle Governor has again set the pace, leading the state to a never-before-achieved Aiteo Cup double.
Perhaps, Nigeria will do better in sports if the sports authorities borrow a leaf from Governor Douye Diri’s motivation-driven approach to sports management.