Handball is one of the lesser-known sports in Nigeria, but that doesn’t mean it’s not making strides. Cosmos Chukwuemeka, the media assistant to the President of the Handball Federation of Nigeria, Samuel Ocheho, spoke to Ademola Kadiri in a revealing interview about several issues.
The excerpts are below:
Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Cosmos Chukwuemeka and I am the media assistant to the president of the Nigerian Handball Federation. I am also a broadcast journalist with LASU Radio where I head the Sports Unit.
We normally don’t hear a lot about the Handball Federation. What could be responsible for this?
Basically, that has to do with the sporting culture of the country. Football is the king of all sports. Everybody loves football. That has to do with the systemic disparity that keeps football ahead of other sports.
The disparity is like the sun and moon; that’s how far they are from each other. It also has to do with structure, talents and inadequacy of facilities; funding is also a big elephant in the room. Football gets 80% of the chunk while the other federations share the remaining 20%.
It’s not only about publicity. Funding also fuels publicity. All of these are the big issues. Policy defects have affected sports, in general. It is not because other sports are not trying, it is because of the defective policy and the challenges that come with it. It is basically systemic.
How does the Federation source for funds?
When the present president came on board, the sport was almost in comatose. They were not attending competitions and grassroots competitions were not being organized. In the 80s, Nigeria used to be the king of handball, but in the 90s, everything fell like a pack of cards because of a whole lot of issues, mainly maladministration.
But then, Samuel Ocheho came in. He’s someone that played the sport, and as a corporate person, he understood how to drive the sport. The first thing he did was to secure the sponsorship for the league, and that was how Prudent Energy came on board. Prudent Energy and Services Limited is an energy company that sponsors the league for about 4 years now. The first phase of the league will come up in May while the second phase comes up in October.
He also ensured that there is level playing ground for individuals that want to put in their money to develop handball. Since 2018, since he became president, there have been many national and international competitions. Apart from the fact that he puts in his own money, which shows his passion, he and the Board have been able to bring a lot of attraction to the sport, so much that handball can now compete with basketball for relevance.
Do the sponsors get value for money to expand the scope of their sponsorship?
Prudent Energy has expanded the scope of its sponsorship twice in 4 years. They are getting the dividends of their investment in the league. When they started in 2018, they got bigger and bigger. Like most energy companies, people might not know about them. They came in and a lot of people started knowing about them and started understanding what they really do.
They came into the league, and it was a big gain for handball to be able to get Prudent Energy, and the dividends for them has been massive. They have leveraged it and everyone now knows that the National Premier Handball League is sponsored by them.
At the point of the lockdown last season caused by Covid-19, they gave out palliatives to all the teams in the league, the players, and even the referees. If they were not getting Return on Investment, they wouldn’t do that at all.
What will you recommend for improving the perception of handball in Nigeria?
It’s a world of technology, and we are trying our best in that regard. We are on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We churn out content every other time, giving updates about the league, and other competitions we participate in. We stream matches live, so we are trying our best to improve the perception and publicity. We also have some media partners that have been with us from day 1.
They help in propagating the good work that the Handball Federation of Nigeria is doing for the growth and development of the sport in the country. Interviews like this also help, but ultimately, what we seek is for handball to go back to the grassroots, which is the fastest possible way to grow the sport.