FIVE TIME Olympian and two-time medallist, Chief Mary Onyali, has challenged the nation’s new generation athletes to develop a hunger for success than the pursuit of money because when you achieve the fame certainly the money will come with it. It is natural.” “A quick look at some of our ex- internationals, you will see that a great many of them are back to square one as soon as they retire from active sports. It is no gain saying that some of them can hardly take care of their basic needs not to talk of family responsibilities. Chief Onyali who spoke on how she was coping with life after retirement from athletics admitted that life after
sports has not really been easy but as someone who is vision-oriented and has always charted her own territory, she knew and has planned for her retirement two years before she finally decided to step aside from active sports. “Even before I retire I already knew that I was going to come back to Nigeria because home is home “ she said. Upon her graduation from the University, with just few years left to compete, she had made plans how to return home to add value to the lives of younger athletes coming up after her. Her words: “having made her people happy the best way I could, I then resolved to set up my own sports wear
line called “Yali-Yali.” The idea behind that Onyali said “is to make sure that no athlete is seen running about the stadiums with slippers or boxers.” She wants to clothe them and put shoes on their feet and give sports a new face at very minimal affordable price. This she claimed was her primary goal after retirement. She maintained that her love for sports which is written all over her DNA pushed her into the administrative aspect of sports where she was fortunate to work with Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye as the Director-General of the Nigeria Sports Commission (NSC) as his Special
Assistant (Technical) where she worked until his he left office. As a way of extending her hand to the youths of this country, Onyali says she was a part of the 11-man committee that formed the Basic Olympic Opportunity Sports Training (BOOST) project. This committee was formed with the sole aim of not to continue complaining like every other Nigerian athlete but becoming the change agent in our nation’s sports industry. That process led to the birth of the Nigeria Olympic Fund, a private initiative backed by the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) and the Nigeria Sports Development Fund Inc. (NSDFI).
According to Onyali, “this journey which started some seven years ago has met with squabbles and hurdles but their resilience to achieving this goal seeing what sports in Nigeria have degenerated into kept their hope alive. Sadly, Sunday Bada and coach Shaibu Amodu died before their dreams started to mature. Meanwhile, she said it was not easy coping from the home front but was grateful to God that her husband, Mr. Victor Omagbemi, who co-incidentally is an athlete understands what her job entails which made it a lot easier for her.


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