Birmingham 2022: Birthday boy Yussuf Alli promises a bountiful harvest of medals
A few months ago, Alli never had an inkling that on his birthday July 28, he will be in Birmingham as the Co-Ordinator of Team Nigeria
By Olukayode Thomas
The journey of Yussuf Amuda Alli to the pinnacle of his career, first as an athlete and later as a sports administrator is not as straight as a tree.
The Coordinator of Team Nigeria to Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games which begins today July 28, 2022, has been a beneficiary of divine intervention by God and men.
A few months ago, Alli never had an inkling that on his birthday July 28, he will be in Birmingham as the Co-Ordinator of Team Nigeria, all he wanted was a quiet celebration with his family.
But as he celebrates with friends and hundreds of athletes and officials from Commonwealth countries who knew him way back when he was an athlete and later as an official, Alli will not but reflect on his journey of life.
As a teenager, Alli loved sports but not athletics, not even sprinting and long jump which he later became renowned for setting the African and Commonwealth record in the event.
All Alli wanted to do was play football and he was so good as a footballer that he was the captain of his school team but his story changed one day when Isaac Ikhobomeh a neighbour who later became an athlete and coach came home with a crate of soft drinks.
When Isaac told him it was a prize he won in an athletics meet, Alli decided to give athletics a trial so that he could prizes.
Between that day and when he retired from athletics Alli won more than cranes of soft drinks. He won many medals, scholarships, cash, fame and winning and dining with the royals and the powerful.
It was God’s intervention that made Alli to go Moscow Olympics Games in 1980.
Alli then barely 20 years old had beaten all the big names in Nigeria’s long jump at the national trials that was used to select athletes that will represent Nigeria at the Moscow Games.
But Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) officials considered him to be fragile and inexperienced to go to Moscow for a big competition like the Olympics so he was dropped from the team.
On the eve of the team’s departure for the games, Isaac Akioye then head of National Sports Commission and asked after the small boy that defeated the established stars to make the Olympic team, they informed Akioye that Alli has been dropped because he was too small and inexperience but Akioye a man that adheres to the rules strictly will not have that.
Akioye told AFN officials that if Alli was good enough to beat the old and experienced stars he has rightly earned a seat on the flight to Moscow so he should be called to camp immediately.
But even with Akioye’s intervention Alli almost missed the flight to Moscow because the time of the Moscow Olympics coincided with his final examination at St. Gregory College so his mother popularly known as Iya Jimoh, who valued education above everything will not allow his son to travel to participate in sports and abandoned his final examination, after all, he was in Mecca for pilgrimage a few months before.
Efforts by family members, friends and neighbours to persuade Iya Jimoh to allow Amuda to travel fell on deaf ears.
Alli was on the verge of giving up when the principal of St. Gregory College sent for Iya Jimoh and told her plainly that if Alli was his son he will allow him to go to the Olympics and do the examination the following year because the Olympics is the greatest show on earth and participating is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The principal also told Iya Jimoh that in another four years, Alli might not be in shape to make the Olympics.
At this point, Iya Jimoh had to surrender and allowed his beloved Amuda to board the flight to Moscow.
As fate would have it, while Alli was in Moscow the examination was postponed that year, so he came back and wrote his final examination.
Countless stories of divine intervention
There are countless stories of divine interventions in Alli’s life as a student-athlete at the University of Missouri, as a professional athlete in the European Athletics Circuit, and as a sports administrator and working with greats like Shola Rhodes, Babatunde Williams, and others.
It was the same divine intervention that moved him from organising athletics meets to organising road races and marathons.
It is also the same divine intervention that made it possible for him to be made Coordinator of Team Nigeria at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and the games to start on his birthday.
For Alli, he has nothing but praises for the Almighty God for the grace to be alive and celebrate his birthday on the day the Commonwealth Games begin with old co-competitors from different Commonwealth countries and also as the Co-Coordinator of Team Nigeria.
Said Alli,’’ I thank the Almighty God, he has been kind to me. For the Commonwealth Games to start on my birthday and to be here as the Coordinator of Team Nigeria is a thing of joy.
‘’As a former Commonwealth champion in Long Jump, I am happy to be among old friends that have been my rival either as an athlete or an official in the last four decades.
‘’ I thank the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Minister Sunday Akin Dare for the opportunity to serve Nigeria. The Minister has been very supportive and the only way we can show appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister and millions of Nigerians praying for our success is to return home with bags of medals.
‘’I also thank my employer the Edo State Government especially Governor Godwin Obaseki and his amiable Deputy Phillips Shaibu for releasing me for this assignment I promise to be a good ambassador of Edo State and Nigeria.
‘’our dream is to make this edition of Commonwealth Games the best performance by Team Nigeria and surpass the performances of the past contingent. God’s willing, we shall achieve our aim,’’ said Alli.