The tracks and fields of the University of Ilorin came alive on Monday as youths across the country gathered to vie for honours in various events in the fourth National Youth Games (NYG).
The 10-day event is featuring 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The 33 teams are competing in 33 sporting events aimed at discovering hidden talents at the grassroots.
Despite holding the annual competition three times before now, it is still a surprise that issues such as lack of, or inadequate equipment for athletes to train, use of overage participants and delay and underpayment of camp allowance to athletes should not arise at this stage.
The National Youth Games was designed to develop sports at the grassroots and to groom talents that will take over from our fading and aged athletes hence any attempt to field athletes above the stipulated age should be rejected totally.
Also, it is imperative that those young athletes be encouraged through provision of the enabling environment and welfare to spur them to greater heights. Issues such as non-payment of allowances to those young lads may make them lose interest in sports. Similarly, the young athletes deserve access to first rate facilities like their counterparts in Europe and other parts of the world when preparing for a tournament such as the NYG.
Feelers from the University of Ilorin, venue of the NYG suggest that some of the athletes were yet to be paid their bonuses and allowances by their officials while others complained of not having the right equipment to practice.
Officials of various teams must ensure the athletes get paid their bonuses and allowances promptly. In addition, athletes with outstanding performances deserved due reward such as scholarships to encourage them to aspire for greatness in sports. This will help more young lads to shun crime and other social vices by devoting their time and energy to hone their skills in sports.
One area I was particularly impressed with the organisers is the disqualification of athletes who are discovered to be above the stipulated age of 15.
The Director, Grassroots Sports and Development, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports, Are Ademola, had during a press conference before the competition disclosed that only athletes of 15 years of age and below are eligible to participate.
According to him, in line with the dreams of the founding fathers of the event, athletes identified during the competition will be developed and nurtured for future national and international competitions.
“Those who were discovered in previous games represented Nigeria at the last Africa Youth Games which served as qualifiers for the Youth Games in Buenos Aires, “ Are was quoted to have said.
Despite the warning from the sports ministry, many of the participating teams were discovered to have arrived Ilorin with several overage and unqualified athletes. It is high time the participating states changed their orientation from the win at all cost syndrome, which explains their desperation.