In recent years, the Kwara State Government has received wide condemnation from athletes, coaches and pen pushers for the decrepit state of the Indoor Sports hall of the Kwara State Stadium, Ilorin. For some athletes, they have had to pay out of their skin to make use of alternative but private facilities in town. In this interview with ADEBAYO OLODAN, the Commissioner for Sports and Youths Development in the state, Alhaji Nuhu Kale Ayo, assures that the facility will get a facelift as soon as the approval of the State Executive Council (SEC) is secured. He also speaks on the promotion ambition of Kwara United, the repositioning of Kwara Football Academy (KFA) and other sundry issues, excerpts;
There have been recurring clamour by stakeholders that the Indoor Sports hall of the Kwara State Stadium urgently need a facelift, what is the position of government on this?
We are aware that the state of the Indoor Sports hall is generating a lot of comments from the stakeholders and I can tell you that His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulfattah Ahmed is committed to sports development and giving the facility a facelift but the challenged had been that of paucity of funds. The project has been captured in 2017 Appropriation bill and I can tell you that as soon as we secure approval of the State Executive Council, renovation should commence in the next one or two weeks on the facility.
How long will the renovation of the facility last?
According to the Consultant, the renovation will take about 52weeks though the duration may be less than that.
Any arrangements for alternative facilities for the athletes to train while the renovation last?
Yes, we have already held discussions with the management of the University of Ilorin and we are also looking at other private facilities where our athletes can train while we are carrying out renovation on the Indoor Sports hall.
Another sports facility in the state that requires serious attention is Kwara Football Academy, which has largely failed to meet the aspiration of its founder, what efforts is the state government making to resuscitate the college?
You know it was initially under the supervision of Harmony Holdings before it was later transferred to the Sports Ministry and what we are trying to do is to reposition the college to international standard. We are looking at overhauling the technical and academic aspect in such a way that it will meet the purpose of its founding fathers. Our governor has also promised to offset the salary arrears of those that were laid off and the existing staff.
We have already sent our officials to Sokoto, Kaduna and other states for collaboration and to inform them that we are repositioning. Also, we have about three or four players of the college trying out presently in Sweden and we are determined to showcase our players to the rest of the world. Also, those that were also part of the ABS victorious U-15 NPFL/La Liga team have been promised scholarship just to encourage our budding talents.
Another clog in sports development in the state has been the consistent poaching of our athletes by other states, could it be that the state government is not committed to the welfare of sportspersons in Kwara?
Government is committed to the welfare of our athletes and as we speak, I can tell you we sponsored two of our athletes to the United States. The major problem we have is that the only language some of those lads understand is money and that is why we are seeking well-meaning individuals and corporate organisations to support us because government cannot do it alone.
Kwara United was in similar position this time last year but at the end of the day, the club failed to secure promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League, how prepared are you to avert recurrence of last season’s debacle?
It was quite unfortunate that we could not gain promotion last season. After that disappointment, we went back to the drawing board and we are able to identify our problem hence we have an idea of what we intend to achieve. The state government has never relented in supporting the team and we’ll continue to work hard without any stone unturned. You can see from our home match against Yobe Desert Stars, where we defeated them 4-0 at home. Most times when we play away from home, our opponents frustrate us with their antics by taking us to waterlogged pitches but this time, we are more than determined to secure the NPFL ticket at the end of the season.
The ambition of football faithful to watch NPFL football every week at the Kwara State Stadium seemed unlikely with ABS presently enmeshed in the lower rung of the log, how will you react to this?
I’m optimistic ABS will remain in the NPFL at the end of the season. The strategy adopted by the team is to prosecute the NPFL with young and vibrant players who secured promotion for the team. Unlike other teams in the same league that boast of highly experienced players, ABS players are relatively young and that may explain the reason the team has struggled a bit on their return to top flight but we are working assiduously to ensure we remain in the NPFL.
One issue that must be addressed if Kwara Utd returns to the NPFL is crowd violence, how prepares is your ministry for this?
Outside here, the home fans threaten our players and officials a lot but our stadium is crowd friendly. Even when we are losing, we don’t go after referees or officials of visiting teams because we are for peace. We have continued to preach peace to our supporters at all time.
There have been concurrent cases of youths taking to social-vices in the state, what effort is your ministry making towards developing sports at the grassroots to curb this menace?
In order to engage our youths gainfully, we’ve consistently urged various sports associations to come up with developmental programmes for our youths. In addition, we are collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development to make inter-house competitions compulsory and to re-introduce sports competitions among our schools. We have also met with the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), so that our primary and secondary schools will be churning out talents like they were known for in the years before.