Conquering Favouritism and Nepotism in the Sporting Arena

Victor Kekereekun
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Needless to say, corruption in our world is not limited to politics, and the importance of fighting corruption is not limited to the political arena only – sport as well is not excluded in this light. Sport as a symbol of fair play around the world, which often provides a release from daily hardships for many, whether it is taking part in or supporting a local team is not cast aside from corrupt practices.

With corrupt practices such as; nepotism and favouritism coming into play, many a person’s trust in sport is lost and people can no longer believe what they see on the field of play or hear from those in charge, and with this, it can be fairly said that public trust in any institution may be irreparably undermined.

In a world where sport almost has no flaws and where sportsmen are taught cooperation, favouritism and nepotism has corrupted sport – becoming a part of the unwanted culture sport entails – and the unfortunate thing is that, some people have been forced to accept it unchallenged.

Favouritism, cronyism, and nepotism – or birds of a feather

Basically, favouritism is just what it sounds like; it’s favouring a person not because he or she is doing the best job but rather because of some additional feature-membership in a favoured group and personal likes. Simply put, favouritism means the provision of special privilege to friends, colleagues and acquaintances,

Cronyism, meanwhile, is a more specific form of favouritism, referring to partiality towards friends and associates. As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” Cronyism occurs within a network of insiders – ‘the cronies’, who confer favours on one another.

Nepotism, however, is an even narrower form of favouritism. Coming from the Italian word for nephew, it covers favouritism to members of the family and other relatives, by giving them positions because of their relationship rather than their competencies.

All these, even though with different meanings, are subject to corrupt and unprofessional practices of giving preferential treatment to friends and relatives.

Many young footballers are denied legitimate opportunities to grow into football stars owing to favouritism and nepotism.

Numerous athletes with great antecedents do not develop illustrious careers like their forebears. Yet, because their forebears took the world by storm, hence they gain special privilege over their overtly more talented colleagues. In this case, talent goes for nothing while preference prevails.

Further, an archetype of favouritism came into play when the head coach of the team that represented Nigeria at the Ghana WAFU 2017 Tournament, Salisu Yusuf, took $1000 from Tiger, who was there as an undercover players’ agent, and agreed to use two of his players in CHAN 2018 Tournament regardless of their form – to make it possible for Tiger’s Players Agency to sell these players, out of which Yusuf would receive 15% of their sales.

At the drop of a hat, Coach Yusuf accepted to use Osas Okoro of Rangers International and Rabiu Ali, the Kano Pillars’ midfielder, in the then upcoming CHAN 2018 Tournament except for injury and sickness regardless of their performance. Grotesque? Yes, that’s how deep favouritism is in rotten sport, particularly football.

Mr Yusuf, with smiles all over his face, took a 1,000 US Dollars at the meeting and accepted an assurance of 15% from the sales of these players should all go as planned. He appreciated the offer with a promise: “Don’t worry, they would be at CHAN”.

Unfortunately for coach Salisu Yusuf and fortunately for all morally inclined and justice loving fans, the Nigerian coach was handed one-year ban, and expected to pay $5,000 fine – multiple folds of the initial ‘envelope’ he received.

Nepotism and favouritism erodes patriotism – or a killer of passion

The truth is, favouritism confuses other players and makes them second guess if they’re good enough to play the sport or not. This certainly can cause stress and pressure. Players who are not given support and encouragement limit how hard they try and have less of a motive to achieve anything. In some cases, athletes may quit the sport after a bad experience with the coach. This can cause long term effects, such as low self-esteem, self-confidence issues, unpatriotism and of course, turning off passion for the sport of interest. After seeing their opportunities of coming into limelight obstructed by favouritism, many Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes have pledged allegiance to other countries who are keen on their talents rather than granting favours.

Sometime last year, heels of allegations of favouritism in team selection were levelled against Gernot Rohr the coach of the Super Eagles of Nigeria by Nosa Igiebor. Nosa claimed to have been benched for ‎players he is better than in the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers against Zambia in Ndola which Nigeria won 2-1.

”I know it’s normal for a coach to have some players he is close to but it shouldn’t be so glaring. A lot of us feel he is not carrying us along, but we can’t speak out now because the team is doing well. At the appropriate time, we will spill the beans,” he noted.

You may argue that Nosa Igiebor is better than just few players in the Super Eagles team, yet his claims may contain purity – I mean just as it is. Claims like this make athletes feel less important to the team – and this adversely make their patriotism questionable in the long run.

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Conquering favouritism and nepotism – or building a headway

Sport is organised on the historic principle of autonomy – and sport organisations are subsequently afforded ‘non-dependent’ or ‘non-governmental organisation’. This allows them to operate without any effective external oversight (or interference, depending on perspective). The statutes of most sport associations in Africa therefore require this reform. Even though many football associations claim independence, yet government interference keeps prevailing in their decision making. I mean government’s ‘must-be-on-the-list’ persons take the centre stage of privileges regardless of their talents. This should stop!

At the same time, internal reform must be open to external perspectives, including inputs from athletes and supporters, sponsors and the society at large. The ‘sports family’ needs to welcome those with know-how in anti-corruption activities, good governance, human rights, labour rights and development outside the world of sport as allies in the greater interest of sport

Sports organisations should establish cultures of transparency to cut down privileges given to certain people. Access to information policies should also be integrated and promoted.

At this somewhat early stage, attempts to stop corruption in sports should be supported by all as corruption does not neatly fit into the sporting arena.  A fight against this is the only favour we can grant the ‘sports family’.


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