President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday received and lit the ‘Torch of Unity’ ahead of the National Sports Festival.
He also called on private sector investors to join hands with the government in youth and sports development in the country.
The President performed the function at a ceremony to flag-off the movement of the ‘Torch of Unity’ across the country, heralding the event scheduled to hold in March in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
The event had in attendance the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, among other dignitaries.
The President has revealed why the last edition of the National Sports Festival was hosted in Abuja – the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
President Muhammadu Buhari who received the ‘Torch of Unity’ on Thursday said the decision was to save the event from permanent closure.
He made the disclosure at a ceremony to flag-off the movement of the ‘Torch of Unity’ across Nigeria.
This paves the way for the National Sports Festival scheduled to hold in March in Benin City, the Edo State capital.
“I am pleased to receive the National Sports Festival ‘Torch of Unity,’ the President was quoted as saying when he received the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, and Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and others at the Presidential Villa.
He added, “It is a symbolic representation of the unity, peace, and solidarity amongst Nigerians, especially the athletes and officials in the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory.
“Since the inception of the National Sports Festival in 1973, the games have been a useful avenue for interaction, integration for our youth, sportsmen and women and a platform for states to showcase their best in sports.”
President Buhari noted, “It is for this reason that the Federal Government intervened to host the last edition of the Festival in the FCT in order to salvage the sports fiesta from permanent closure.
“I wish to commend the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Federal Capital Territory for hosting the event in 2018.”
The President, therefore, called on investors in the private sector to join hands with the government in youth and sports development in the country.
He reiterated his administration’s commitment to supporting and providing the enabling environment for the development of sports at all levels.
Be Good Ambassadors
On sports development, the President applauded the ministry for initiating the ‘Adopt an Athlete or Stadium Campaign’, noting that it was one of the useful ways to create opportunities for participation by firms and individuals.
He also invited sports lovers and enthusiasts to take advantage of the campaign to be part of raising the banner of sports in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic is scheduled to hold on July 24 – August 9 and August 25 – September 6 respectively, in Tokyo, Japan.
President Buhari, in his remarks, wished the country’s athletes the best of luck at the games and urged them to be good ambassadors.
Mr Dare, on his part, noted that with the flag off, the Torch of Unity would move round all the tates and the FCT before finally arriving in Benin City on March 22, for the opening ceremony of the 20th Edition of the ‘Nigerian Olympics’.
“The Torch of Unity for the National Sports Festival carries with it the objectives of the festival itself, chief amongst which is to symbolise unity, peace, friendship, tolerance and hope among Nigeria,” he said.
The minister added, “When the torch moves round the cities and people see it, they begin to properly realise the games are here, and it always brings a good feeling to everyone.”
He also thanked the President for identifying with the festival, noting that performing the symbolic lighting of the torch was a testimony of the importance the present administration has attached to youth and sports development in the country.
A total number of 110 contingents on Monday left Calabar, Cross Rivers State capital to participate in the elimination stage of the National Sports Festival.
The National Sports Festival is scheduled to hold between March 20 to April 1, in Delta State.
The State Commissioner for Sport and Cinematography, Onun Offu Aya while addressing them at the U.J Sports Stadium before the departure, said the athletes were carefully selected to represent the state.
Aya said their departure to Delta is to help them compete within the South-South zone ahead of those who will be selected to represent the zone in the festival.
“I want to charge you to make us proud as you go. When you excel, the state will be proud of you. In these circumstances that you are going for this competition, know that it is your interest first; so you must give in your best.
“Cross River is providing you with the platform to launch yourself out to the world. Don’t be intimidated by anybody, just believe in yourself and put in your best,” he said.
The contingents will be competing in sports which include Volleyball, AbulaHandball, Football, and Basketball.
Abula literally means ‘cut to join’. It is a game based on the combination of skills of tennis, volleyball, and table tennis. The game is played by a uniquely designed Abula bat and a playing court measured 16m by 8m over a net 2.44m high. The game is played by two teams of four.
The Commissioner reiterated the state government’s interest in discovering and exposing young talents in the state.
Also speaking, the leader of the delegation and the State Director of Sport, Jude Amadi, told newsmen that the athletes were physically and mentally fit for the contest.
Amadi, who assured that the team will emerge victorious in the outing, thanked Governor Ayade for adequately mobilising them to participate at the elimination stage.
The organising committee has confirmed that the 2016 edition of the Korean Ambassador Cup will commence from Friday, December 8 to 10.
The organisers also announced that over 300 participants from the 36 states of the federation and friendly West African coast will be available to compete for honours in different weight categories, for the sparring (kyorugi and the forms (poomsaes).
The Chairman of the Main Organising Committee, who also doubles as the President of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation, Grandmaster George Ashiru, said the annual event sponsored by the Korean Cultural centre ‘with their other chosen partners’ is geared towards enhancing sports development and bilateral relations between Nigeria and South Korea.
He believes that in the absence of the National Sports Festival, the 2016 edition will provide an opportunity for the federation to raise a new national team for 2017 which is a world championship year.
According to information made available from the Secretariat of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation, about 300 athletes made up of 50 teams have already arrived in Lagos for the competition set to kick off on Friday.
He said: “300 athletes with about 150 accompanying officials have already landed in Lagos and ready for the 2016 edition of the Korean Ambassador Cup.
“Ghana have already sent in three separate teams from three different provinces, Niger have sent in another set of athletes while Togo are reported to have their athletes on the road.
“But, we won’t count them as part of the competition until they arrive in Lagos.
“We do know that many states, the Armed forces and other para-military units as well as elite clubs are seriously gearing up to be for this event to ensure that their athletes are nationally ranked in preparation for a busy season in 2017”.
Apart from individual awards for participating athletes at the end of the competition, there will be a presentation of awards from the Korean Ambassador to former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, former Chief of Army staff, Lt. General Inuwa Wushishi (rtd) and other Nigerians for their immense contributions to Taekwondo development.
The Ogun State government says it is determined to return its football club, Gateway FC, back to the Nigerian Premiership League (NPL) from its current National League.
The Ogun State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Mr Afolabi Afuape, gave the hint in Abeokuta, the state’s capital, in southwest Nigeria.
He also inspected the ongoing re-grassing of the Moshood Abiola International Stadium from the former AstroTurf to natural grass.
Apologising to the supporters of the club for their inability to make it to the elite stage, Mr Afuape said that the era of political players, which characterised the team was over.
He added that the open screening exercise aimed at selecting best players for the team had commenced.
The Commissioner also unveiled the plans of the State government towards ensuring successful outing for the Ogun State contingent to the forth coming National Sports Festival coming up in November this year.
The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barrister Solomon Dalong, has sued for support from government at all levels towards promoting sporting activities in the country in order to raise a new generation of sport lovers.
The Minister spoke in Calabar, the Cross River State capital during the Extra-Ordinary National Council Meeting on Sports.
He explained that if more investment is made in the sports sector, more participation would be recorded and new hidden talents would be discovered.
Dwelling further on the National Sports Festival, the Sports boss disclosed that the festival is one of the pillars of ensuring continuous growth of sports and is a unifying factor among Nigerians.
He revealed that the delay in the hosting of the next edition of the National Event is not deliberate, but to ensure that the completion of all required standard facilities are in place to ensure a successful hosting.
The Chairman of the Cross River State Sports Commission, Rt. Honourable Orok Duke, has said that the state would be ready to host the coming National Sports Festival at the last quarter of the year.
Honourable Duke suggested the state’s readiness to host the National Sports Festival at the last quarter of the year rather than the initial plan to host the festival at the second quarter of the year.
This, according to the Chairman, is to allow full participation of the athletes who would be returning from the Olympics and also ensure that all the facilities for the event were ready before the festival.
Honourable Duke said that the postponement would also aid the state to plan better and ensure that contractors working on the sections of the stadium that needed to be upgraded, delivered on the mandates.
He decried the poor state of Sports facility in the state which had suffered neglect for many years, promising that the newly established Sports Commission by the present government would make a difference in that direction.
The Director General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Al-Hassan Yakmut, has confirmed that the delayed 2014 edition of the National Sports Festival will be held after the All Africa Games (AAG) 2015.
Mr Yakmut while speaking on Channels Television’s sports programme, Sports Tonight, identified funding as a major problem that had stalled the event.
He said the commission was working towards a public-private partnership, as they await a positive response from the supposed 2014 festival host, Cross River State Government.
Yakmut was the Director of Grassroots Sports Development Department of the National Sports Commission before he took over from Honorable Gbenga Elegbeleye in May 2015.
Meanwhile, the AAG 2015 will run between September 4 and 15 in Brazzaville, Congo, and the Director General is optimistic that everything needed for the national games would be ready after the All Africa Games.
The Sports Minister and Chairman, National Sports Commission (NSC), Dr. Tammy Danagogo says there will be a re-consideration on the exclusion of some sports from the National Sports Festival.
Danagogo explained that the major reason for the move is to ensure that all sports registered under the NSC are given opportunity to develop, adding that he does not believe that some sports should be classified as lesser sports.
The sports minister, who was present at the 1st National U-15 Cricket Championship that took place at the cricket pitch of the Package B of the Abuja National Stadium, emphasized the need to make the country competitive in different sports and not just football.
He assured the President of the Nigeria Cricket Federation that the bat and ball sport will be reconsidered as one of the sports for the National Sports Festival, adding that National Council on Sports may be reconvened to discuss the issue.
“I do not believe that any sport should be excluded from the sports festival. I believe the festival should be used to develop all sports. Cricket is one of the serious federations that don’t run to me for funds.
If cricket can rank 34th in the world without support from government, if government and the private sector come in to support them, then they will do better than they are doing now,” he said, stressing “government should do everything possible to garner laurels from all sports.”
While reaffirming that he will implement the Federal Government’s road map to developing sports in the country, Dr. Danagogo said ” the era of discrimination of some sports will be over with me on the saddle as sports minister. Since the National Council on Sports is the policy making body where decisions are taken on matters of the sports festival, I will see if it’s meeting can be reconvened to re-evaluate the decision to exclude some sports.”
He promised the cricket federation that their request to improve their playing pitch will be looked into as he called on cricket followers to be part of the development of the sport in Nigeria.
A sports analyst and former board member of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria has commented on the performance of Lagos state; the host of the 18th Sports Festival in the track and field events that it would not achieve much in terms clinching medals.
Adeyemi Philips who lectures Physical and Health Education at the University of Lagos said Delta, Edo and River states respectively possess more advantage than the host the track and field events of the National Sports Festival tagged Eko 2012 because they have top quality athletes which the host do not possess.
“Delta, Edo, and Rivers are the top contenders for the athletics medals, they have top quality athletes. Lagos will find it hard during the competition,”
It can be said now that this claim by the Philips has encompassed performances by the host in the festival as Delta and Rivers states drowned Lagos state on the medals table and as of yesterday Delta was leading the table 10 gold medals, while River is following closely with 8 and Lagos coming third on the table.
He said the whole essence of the Sports festival is for the common goal of the country looking at the development of sports in Nigeria which has recently nose-dived judging by the performance of the country’s sportsmen in world stage.
“The overriding joy will be how many fresh talents we can discover and then be groomed to become world stars.
“This thing about athletes moving from one state to the other when it is time for the sports festival should be a thing of the past. What we want to see are States presenting young and enterprising athletes.
This is the only way Nigeria can produce quality athletes at the international level, the sports festival should be a breeding ground.
The 18th National Sports Festival will kick-started today with the opening ceremony at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
Eko 2012 is expected to open with a spectacular ceremony showcasing the history of Nigeria’s commercial hub as thousands of non-paying spectators cheer on.
President Goodluck Joanthan was billed to grace the opening ceremeny but he will be represented by the Vice president Namani Sambo, who will officially declare the festival open at around 4pm this afternoon.
The festival which will have it closing ceremony on December 9, will host the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, with over 11, 500 athletes and officials plotting for gold, silver and bronze.
The 12-day event will feature 25 sports with over 1,000 volunteers ensuring the festival is hitch-free at the several venues including the Onikan Stadium, UNILAG Sports Complex, Agege Stadium and the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
The former Nigerian goalkeeper will be assisted by erstwhile Super Falcons striker, Gift Okunwa Sowemimo and Ikpo Moses.
Similarly, Lawson Olatunde, head coach of the Surulere local government in the Lagos Junior league will lead the coaching crew of the male Eko Team at Lagos 2012.
Olatunde will be assisted by the duo of Shakiru Giwa and Olowokere Bankole.
The LSFA chairman, Seyi Akinwunmi charged the coaches to be upright in their dealings with the teams and not to succumb to pressure from anyone in their team selection.
“Be upright in all your dealings. Don’t relent in your efforts to bring glory to the state at the festival.
“Any one of you found to act in an unprofessional manner in the course of the assignment will be dropped and replaced.
“I urged you to see your appointments as a challenge to further develop yourselves and also to make a mark in your chosen career.
“I promised that each of you will undergo continuous training in the course of the year,” he informed SuperSport.com.
It was learnt from Akinwunmi that the association will not only employ other staff to complement the work of the coaches but will also employ other coaches for its various programmes over the course of the year.