Not many states in the country are as fortunate as Kwara in terms of discovering budding talents that will go on to win laurels for the state and Nigeria in local and international sports competitions.
Despite the glut of talents that abound in Kwara, the state has yet to benefit maximally from such opportunity with many Kwara-born athletes turning out for other states at any slightest opportunity.
Whenever those athletes discovered here switch their allegiance to other states, Kwara ended up as loser given the fact that those sportsmen and women made use of our facilities to develop their talents.
Some of the athletes do complain of ill treatment by the state government hence their decision to seek for greener pastures in other states with better welfare package such as Delta, Ogun, Lagos, Rivers and Cross River State among others.
Also some Kwara-born athletes, who have been able to put the name of Kwara on world map by plying their trades in other countries or state, rarely get the recognition they deserved from the state government. Three names that readily come to mind is those of legendary Super Eagles striker, Rashidi Yekini, Hogan Jimoh (both of blessed memory) and former school boy international, Taiwo Awoniyi.
While alive, Yekini porojected the name of Kwara by scoring goals for fun for the Super Eagles and his numerous club sides in Europe, Asia and Africa but ever since his demise five years ago, the state government is yet to immortalise the player, who hails from Ira, Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State.
In the same vein, boxing legend, Hogan Jimoh, died about two months ago in penury aged 61.
According to a family source, the Ila, Asa Local Government Area, Kwara State-born pugilist had retired to selling foodstuff (garri) in Ebute Ero, Lagos State before his demise.
Jimoh, known as ‘Atomic bomb’ reigned in boxing in the 70s and was last seen in the sports circle on March 25, 2016 when his son, Hogan Jimoh Jnr, lost to Otto ‘Joe Boy’ Joseph in the first round of their national lightweight challenge bout at the 6th edition of the GOtv Boxing night, at the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos.
He had 36 professional fights with 30 wins, 24 via knockouts, and lost six through knockouts.
Between 1970 and 1980, he was the Nigerian Lightweight champion. Hogan Jimoh later added the African title before winning the Commonwealth Lightweight title when he defeated Lennox Blackmoore on October 25, 1978, but lost to Langton Tinago on December 7, 1980.
Hogan Jimoh only had an uncompleted house in Magbon along the Badagry Expressway, Lagos to show despite his feat in boxing.
For Awoniyi, who won the 2013 U-17 World Cup with the Golden Eagles, he would have wished he hailed from another state where his exploit with the junior national team in the United Arab Emirates would have been rewarded with substantial cash gift and landed property, unfortunately, he is from Isin Local Government of Kwara State.
The aforementioned are just few but prominent among the athletes that deserved better attention and treatment from the state government.
Only last September, Special Athletes expressed their displeasure with the state government by blocking the entrance of the Kwara State Stadium Complex, Ilorin, over 15 months unpaid N8, 000 stipends.
The athletes carried placards with various inscriptions; “Stop cheating us, pay us our 15 months,” “Police you may shoot us but our blood will fight such a police or security person,” among others.
According to their spokesman, Oyadirin Felix, said they are Kwara ambassadors who have been representing the state for the past 20 years without employment.
He said the state government also stopped the N8,000 stipends going to some of the athletes under the Kwara Bridge Empowerment Scheme (KWABES) for the past 15 months. Felix explained that they had met with the state Chief of Staff, the Commissioner and the Director of Sports without any positive results to resolve the issue amicably.
The athletes raised several issues bothering on promises of the 2012 National Sports Festival’s (Eko 2012) allowances not kept by the state government.
They described as meagre the N8,000 stipends they are paid by the state government compared to the N60, 000 to N100,000 received monthly by their colleagues in other states.
Ill treatment from government for athletes who train day and night to win laurels for the state is unhealthy. The state government must pay premium attention to physical wellness which has much influence on athletes’ performance in sports competition. Government must also improve allocation to the sports ministry just as it must ensure regular upgrade of sports facilities across the state.
The deplorable state of the indoor sports hall of the Kwara State Stadium needs to be urgently addressed to allow our athletes keep fit and train optimally for forthcoming competitions.
Also to avert cases of inexplicable deaths of athletes especially during training or competitions, all coaches should ensure proper medical screening of their wards before engaging in sporting events. Team managers should ascertain level of body function and proper coordination of body systems.
Athletes must also undertake sports activities which commensurate with their physical limitations.
The team management and individual athletes should engage the service of sports psychologist to determine and improve mental state and wellness of athletes.