By Ben Efe
Nigerian sports administrators have always clamoured for a return to grassroots sports. This is with the notion that it will aid the country to win back its glorious days.
But what happened at the National Schools Sports Festival in Port Harcourt during the last seven days made mockery of that clarion call. Though enthusiasm among the participating states ran high, the local organizing committee and the National School Sports Federation, NSSF, failed to balance the equation of ‘administrative and technical mathematics’.
The competition billed to start on January 26 was held up as officials failed to screen athletes even as the hosts, River State, did not help matters with regards to providing the logistics of running the schools sports fiesta.
Things came to a head when the officials of the participating states demonstrated against certain decisions that were taken by the local organizing committee and the NSSF.
“It is such a shame that in 2013 we are seeing things like these. This is one competition we must take seriously because of our retarded sports growth. We must do all the right things now, otherwise we will not be going anywhere,” said Cross River grassroots sports development consultant, Dr. Bruce Ijirigho
Delta State Commissioner for Education, Professor Patrick Muoboghere buttressed the point made by Ijirigho. “I almost walked away with my team. We were here for three good days and nothing was happening.
“They made a mess of the screening process and the hosts Rivers weren’t even ready for the competition. And it is apparent the National Schools Sports Federation, is not serious about organizing a credible festival,”
Also commenting former African long jump champion, Yusuf Alli who was at the athletics venue, lamented that the schools sports festival was worst than a joke.
“I am really disappointed with what I have seen. I participated in the school sports festival in 1978, 79 and this is not what we witnessed. Look at what we have here, there are no running bibs, there are no starting blocks, they start the races with a whistle and there is no timing device and who is going to accept any time that was done here?
“I think we must have to do better than this if we need to revive our sports. It was from the school sports festival most of Nigeria’s former elite athletes emerged. What can we say about it now,” he queried.
However, NSSF boss Alhaji Ibrahim noted all the short comings, but submitted that he was glad the competition ran its full course.
“First of all I must say that people have the right to express themselves. We are in a democracy and so we have freedom to speak our minds. We had problems with the screening because some people like to cheat. But as a federation we have the rules, which we dutifully applied.
The hosts had their expectations and so did the participating states. It was only when these expectations are streamlined that things will begin to move. After all the problems, I’m glad that the competition at all venues went ahead. We solved the problems as they arose,”he stressed.