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The rise of female sports journalists in Nigeria

The rise of female sports journalists in Nigeria
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By, Adeyinka Akintunde

Sports has been described in simple terms to mean all forms of competitive physical activity or games which aim to maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators.

A country like Nigeria is blessed with so many sporting activities with football, which is popularly referred to as the “King of Sports” leading the pack, as well as Basketball, Athletics, Table Tennis, Boxing, volleyball, squash, and the rest of them.

Like every other news bit in the country that has journalists assigned to them to give reports and analysis, sports is not left out. Nigeria has seen celebrated sports journalists, who have given reports and detailed analysis of games and matches in time pasts, and even currently, to the delight of Nigerians. Sports lovers in Nigeria will not forget names of journalists like Adokiye Amiesimaka, Mumini Alao, Mitchelle Obi, Kunle Solaja, Kayode Tijani, Yemi Adebayo, Wale Adigun, Toyin Ibitoye, Tobi Emmanuel, Ben Alaiya, Godwin Enakhena, Larry Izamoje and a host of others, because they have thrilled their audience who watch them on Television, or listen to them on the radio, or read them in the print and online newspapers.

However, there has of recent been the emergence of female sports Journalists. The wide belief, that it is only the men folk that is interested in Sports has been proven to be false, with women showing interest, not just in following the games of their choice, but also reporting and analysing the games with as much passion as the men.

Football followers are familiar with the face of Chisom Mbonu-Ezeoke, who anchors football programmes and match analysis on DSTV channel, SuperSports. According to her, in one of her interviews, she never liked football at first, but got interested, after watching some football clips her brothers had was she was much younger.

Chisom Mbonu-Ezeoke

Chisom Mbonu-Ezeoke

“I remember that as a kid, my father and two of my brothers were very passionate about football; I am not quite sure I liked football at that time but I started liking football because back in the days, in the 1980s when I was still a little child, my brothers used to have videotapes of World Cup goals and it was just goals only. I started from watching the goals, which of course is exciting and which led me to what I am doing now.

“Well, I think it (my sports journalism) started, like it is for most Nigerians, you watch the game, you go out, you meet people and you argue football. Sometimes I argue with people and lost out in the argument not because I don’t have the point or fact but because I did put them across the way I ought to. So what I did then was to go back read more, luckily there is internet now. Every day, the first thing I do after my morning prayers, is to log on to the internet for the latest news in world football. It started from there and the fact that I am a bit eloquent also helped in sustaining my ability to analyse the game. That is a gift from my father because he made me read a lot of novels from when I was a kid; I am eloquent, my vocabulary is not the best but it is up to standard. So, I just wanted to beat everybody as far as discussing football and making my points heard were concerned. That was how it all started as far as being able to analyse football and sports generally.

Aisha Falode, celebrated sports Journalist who worked with RayPower and AIT, and is now the current chairman of the Nigeria Women Football League, had a rough beginning into her career.

Aisha Falode

Aisha Falode

“I grew up in a community where the only way to mingle with people within your vicinity is to be adventurous and take part in street racing or street football. Unlike what obtains today, in my Mokola Street in Ibadan in those days, we used to engage in different forms of sporting activities. So, naturally when I got into the teachers’ college, It was easy for me excel in sporting activities and I ended up being the school’s Handball and Hockey captain. I won medals for Lagos State at two National Sports Festivals.

“Although, I didn’t actually attain the height I intended in sports then, it has always been a heart desire to do something around sports. So after college, I began to plan on how to contribute my quota in sports and that explains my getting a post-graduate diploma in mass communication. And when I got an offer from Ray-Power and AIT to be a sports Journalist, I grabbed it.

 I was one of the pioneer journalists on the sports desk of the company. I would always remain grateful to Chief Raymond Dokpesi for that opportunity. When I started, sports’ reporting was exclusively for men. It was never easy for women to break through. But I told myself that the only way to succeed was to be ready to work even harder than the men. So I set the building blocks that can see me through. One, was  to be truthful at all times and another was not to get distracted either by beauty or whatever fame that comes with what I do. Again, I was focused and down to earth.”

Janine Anthony, another television Sports presenter of the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A on Startimes World Football Channel, and publisher of Africa’s foremost multilingual women’s football network, LadiesMarch, tells the story of her entry into the business.

Janine Anthony

Janine Anthony

“I have always been a fan of men’s football for a long time. When I was growing up, I wanted to be a footballer, but my dad refused, and I changed my mind.

“I got into sports Journalism, I realised that everybody had a blog that they use to report what their teams were doing around the world, and I just realised that I don’t get much information about women’s football.

“So when the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup was around the corner, I met with a couple of friends who said  they needed some information on Africa, and it was so hard to get information because of language issues, and because women’s football was not so developed then. So I decided to cover it extensively, and get reporters from all over Africa giving us information on Women’s football.

“What I do now is anchor analysis on the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A (men’s football), and for Women football, report it and show short clips on YouTube, so the world can see our local leagues too, like we see  the UEFA Champions League.

For young Josephine Jombo, publisher of Eagle Eye Sports online paper, passion drove her into sports journalism. “When I was young, I used to play football and I loved it a lot. But I met stiff opposition from my parents and friends, because they made me believe that going into football, and sports would make me unserious. So I stopped, focused on my academics, and went to the university.

“On completion of my course in school, I still had passion for sports, so I decided that if I cannot play, I can report it. And that was what led to me reporting football matches, since September 2016.”

On her experience so far, Josephine said it has been fun all the way. “The only challenge I have experienced so far is making myself and my publication popular, since I am just starting, but it has been fun for me to go to Agege Stadium especially, and other places to report the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), and other sports. I have met big personalities, and it has been fun.”

Josephine said that passion is what drives ladies to report sports, “and that same passion will make one of them become the head coach of one NPFL club someday. With the way things are going now, I won’t be surprised when that happens.”

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