The 2018 National Youth Games (NYG), which is the fourth edition of the competition may have come and ended, however the manner the Kwara athletes were treated leave sour taste in the mouths of sports and youths passionate Kwarans.
It must be said that out of the 33 states that took part in the annual competition, Kwara athletes and officials had arguably the most unpleasant treatment.
Aside being denied their bonuses and allowances while the National Youth Games lasted, many of our athletes regrettably competed at the University of Ilorin venue without kits.
But for poor planning and our youths unfriendly sports ministry, Kwara may have topped Delta, Lagos, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Osun and Oyo states on the medals log of the 2018 National Youth Games.
According to findings, the Squash team, which ended up winning 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 2 Bronze medals had no balls, canvass, rackets, shorts and shirts to train. Also, the team was almost walked over at a stage as there was no vehicle to transport the players to venue of their match but for the intervention of a kindhearted Kwaran; Bola Mogaji. Despite all the challenges the squash did the state proud by winning laurels.
As the host state with a well staffed Ministry of Sports and Youths Development, Kwara athletes were expected to enjoy first rate treatment but this was never the case.
The athletes and officials were said to have been promised N15, 000 and N30,000 respectively as allowance but they were not paid a dime throughout the tourney. At a stage, the athletes threatened to boycott the competition over inadequate equipment and poor welfare but were last Thursday persuaded by some officials to endure till the end of the NYG.
However, after the competition, the athletes refused to vacate their hostels when it dawned on them that they may never get paid by the sports ministry. In addition, a government vehicle was said to have been hijacked in protest.
While other 31 states that participated in the NYG had been paid by their officials and had returned to their base on Sunday, Kwara athletes waited several hours for their stipends.
Surprisingly, Kwara State Director of Sports, Coach Tunde Kazeem claimed he was at the Government House on Tuesday alongside the Commissioner for Sports, Hon Muideen Alalade to secure the release of funds to offset the allowance of the players. Kazeem was quoted to have said payment of the players entitlement was delayed due to paperwork from the bank and Ministry of Finance.
As if the shame was not enough, the athletes were said to have been offered N7,500 each as against the N15,000 due to them as allowance. Though the young lads reportedly refused the offer, it was however not confirmed whether they were later paid their allowances in full.
Even if those athletes and officials ended up being paid all their allowances, such poor planning and uncaring attitude will only discourage budding talents from developing further interest in sports or representing Kwara in future tournaments. With such attitude on the part of those in charge of sports administration, Kwara will continue to lose scores of athletes to states that could guarantee them better welfare package.
In the last three decades, athletes like; Olapade Adenekan, Toyin Ayinla, Jimoh Balogun, Taiwo and Kehinde Titilayo, Fatai Hammed, Tanko Usman, Monday John, Mukaila Omiata and Ajibarede Bello, among others were discovered here but ended up defecting to other states with better welfare for athletes.
Until we put in place proper structure and improved welfare and performance enhancing scheme at the sports ministry, our athletes will keep leaving the state for ‘fertile lands’ such as Delta, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Bayelsa and the likes.
If the enabling environment is not put in place for those budding athletes, it is unlikely Kwara will win anything close to 5 Gold, 9 Silver and 4 Bronze medals in subsequent National Youth Games.