In the past, the name 'Ilesa Grammar School’ or better still Ilegrams or simply 'Ile' used to send shocking waves down the spine of its competitors in the field of sports. Today, the story has changed, and the school has continued to lag behind, not just in personnel, but also in infrastructure, in the area of sports that is. In this special report, Isaac Odeyemi writes about the dwindling fortunes of our great school in the area of sports...
"100 metres male we came first, handball female we came first, table tennis we came first, 400 metres female we came first, 1500 metres we came first in both male and day, in . . ." I remember with nostalgia such pronouncements, greeted with applause and chants of praise on the part of students, on the school assembly ground the Monday after the completion of the annual AIONIAN Games. Such was the greatness and excellence of Ilegrams sports in those days that the school's sports centre could be mistaken to be the Ilesa Stadium by visitors.
It was a good period when Ilegrams would rule the roost in all competitions - the principals cup, ANCOPSS Cup, State Cup . . . I can go on and on. The school had students who were not only brilliant in academics but were also pace setters in sports. You dare not contend with them if you were not worth your onions. Their performances made their contemporaries grin with envy.
A prominent old student of the school who is also the National Vice-President II of the national body of the Old Students Association describes some of 'the good old days' of the school in sports, during his time as a student.
"I was a sportsman. I started being the captain of Ilegrams. I was the sports secretary in Form Four and became captain in Form Five. I led the school to AIONAIN sports competitions in Ondo, Abeokuta and so on. I must say one of the things that took me to GCI was sports, because GCI loved sports people. In 1965, after I finished at Ilegrams, I was still waiting for my results so I engaged myself in sporting activities. One day we met GCI students at the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan in relay race. I was among the contingent from Ilegrams, and immediately we got to the tracks, everybody was just hailing us 'ile, ile, ile'
I took the first leg, the second leg was Isiaka 'Easy momento', the third leg was Gilbert and the final leg was Fatoye, he had long legs. At the Liberty Stadium then, as an Ilegrams student, you want to show off to the girls that you are from Ilegrams. I took the first leg and we eventually won. People were shouting and chanting 'ile, ile, ile' and after the race everybody wanted to know who the person that took the first leg was. "
Also speaking in an interview during the school's 75th Anniversary Lecture in February, a popular athlete 'Gbegbe' expressed his dissatisfaction with the turn of events, describing it an unpardonable.
The school's dwindling fortunes in sports is well mirrored by the current shape of its sports facilities in the areas of football pitch as well as basketball, volleyball, handball and tennis courts.
Unlike during my time as a student in the school in the late 90s and early part of this decade for example, when the likes of Mr. Fapounda, Mr. Olaleye, Mr. Awopeju and several others nurtured, mentored and monitored the school's athletes with regular training and exercise, a visit to the school these days will readily present a picture of administrators who are bereft of ideas on how to reignite the good days.
Also, the facilities that used to be a thing of pride in those days have since depreciated in quality and attention. Despite the revenues accruing to the school from those who make use of the facilities especially the football field for social events, little or nothing is being spent on the maintenance, let alone improve on them. One of the events of the AIONIAN Games had to be cancelled outrightly and infamously when the school hosted the annual games in 2007 because Ilegrams could not provide the necessary facility for that particular event. Unthinkable, isn't it?
There is the need for all stakeholders especially the management of the school to realise that sport has now become a serious business the world over, and pay more attention to that particular area. If Ilegrams could produce the General Overseer of the fastest growing church in the world (under the unction of the Holy Spirit), the first African to be the president of Rotary International, the first civilian governor of Lagos State, the immediate past Chief Justice of Nigeria, former Vice-Chancellors of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife and the University of Lagos as well as current Vice-Chancellors of the Federal University of Technology Akure and Caleb University Ibadan, and with the same upbringing, hardwork, diligence and commitment, then nothing stops the school from producing the best athletes that will be adored the world over, or is there any?