Nat’l Youth Games: Same problem, same old story


33 states, different languages, different tribes, different cultures,
over 4,000 athletes, 34 sporting events, 600 medals won, one venue,
one country, welcome to the National Youth Games!
For about a week, the city of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital was a
beehive of sporting activities as young athletes from various states
converged for the 5th edition of the NYG.
The competition which was held at the University of Ilorin saw budding
talents under the age of 15 compete for honours various events with
first rate facilities provided by the host institution.
The National Youth Games which was initiated by Mallam Bolaji
Abdullahi during his tenure as Sports Minister under the
administration of Goodluck Jonathan is indeed a good one but five
years after the former commissioner for Education floated the idea,
there have been little to cheer.
According to the initiator, the NYG was meant to produce the next
generation of sporting stars that will shine through and possibly
replace athletes who are already on the wrong side of their age.
The development was seen as a step towards the rebirth of grassroots
sport development.
The youth tournament was specifically designed to arrest the recurring
uninspiring performance of our athletes in major international
While the Federal Government through the Sports Ministry has continued
to commit funds and material resources into the NYG, there has been
practically little or nothing to show for such huge investment.
Though Delta State emerged champions of the National Youth Games for a
record fifth time, with a total of 104 medals (41 Gold, 32 Silver and
31 Bronze medals), the organisers are however yet to provide a lasting
solution to age cheat.
It was observed that some of the athletes participated in the
competition like the previous editions are above the age of 15. During
a chat with a colleague (Sports Journalist), one of the athletes when
asked about his date of birth disclosed that he was born in 2002.
By my calculation, the athlete should be 17 already meaning he is
over-aged and not qualified to partake in the NYG.
There is also the issue of trashy arrangement on the part of some
states. More worrying is the fact that some state governments failed
to pay their athletes and officials allowances and bonuses all through
the one week tournament.
One of such states who reportedly owed its athletes is Ondo. The
athletes were said to have threatened a sit-back protest in Ilorin.
Though the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare has promised that this time
the Federal Government will adopt camping system to nurture skills of
the starlets into Olympians, it remains to be seen whether the new man
in town is not making another empty promise like his predecessor.
Should the FG live up to such promise, it is expected that five to
eight years from now some of the budding talents discovered in Ilorin
will be turning out for Nigeria in major international competitions
including the All African Games and the Olympics.
It is unproductive for the national to be parading same set of
athletes for over two decades.
World over, athletes in their 20s tend to perform optimally than their
compatriots in the early or late 30s hence it is imperative Nigeria
replaces its ‘tired legs’ with youthful sportsmen and women.
The FG need to act this time as it appears the NYG is gradually losing
its appeal with more states opting out of partaking in the event. In
the just concluded tournament, only 33 states took part out of a
possible 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Should the FG
fail to live up to its promise of close camping of the budding
athletes, it will not be a surprise if more states pull out of
subsequent editions of NYG.

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