By ONOCHIE ANIBEZE
The charged atmosphere became emotional at the end of Solomon Ogba’s welcome address Monday.
The Athletics Federation of Nigeria President was at the Excel Hotel, Warri to receive Team Nigeria for the Africa Youth Athletics Championships billed for March 27 to 31.
The team arrived from the IAAF High Performance Centre in PortHacourt where they camped for three weeks.
Commodore Amatseye Nesiama, the AFN Technical Director and Amaju Pinnick, the LOC Chairman for the Championships were there to receive and address the athletes too.
’’You are the stars of tomorrow and I want to assure you that if you win here most of you will be in the World Junior Championships. I know that you can make it,’’ Ogba told the 59 athletes who were accompanied by their coaches. Solomon Ordia headed the 15 coaches initially.
Later, Ogba assigned Seigha Porbeni and Brown Ebewele to join them. Ovations interrupted Ogba’s remarks. He continued: ‘’I know that once you are in the Nigerian colours you are fired up. You have to do your best to win.
From today, your allowances will be in dollars. This is the maiden edition, so you must set records. And being the first edition any victory here is a record.
A good performance here can earn you scholarship abroad. A good performance here can earn you a trip to the World Championship as a junior observer. A good performance here can lead you to the World Junior Championships. Young athletes, the Governor of Delta State will be here to watch you.
The Sports Minister will be here for the event. And If President Jonathan cannot make it on the final day I’m sure he will send a representative. Nigerians are behind you and I have told them that you shall win. If you don’t win, that may make me a liar. Do you want to make me a liar?’’
This aspect made them emotional and they responded with a loud ‘’Noooo’’ and followed up with ovation. As usual, Brown Ebewele enlivened the atmosphere at Hotel Excel.
It was similar when Amaju Pinnick spoke.
He reminded the athletes that it was only in sports that a Nigerian could place first, second or fourth in the world.
’’The best university in Nigeria is placed 66 in Africa and 6,340 in the world. Our hospitals are not even ranked. But in sports we are there.
Blessing Okagbare was 8th in the final of 100m at the London Olympics. It means that she is the 8th best in the world. So note that you are the tomorrow and the future of Nigerian sports. Football can fetch us one gold but you can fetch as many as 50 gold medals. Go there and make Nigeria proud.
When you do so, you will not regret it,’’ Amaju told the athletes who were then handed over to him with the Nigerian flag as the symbol. Nesiama handed over to AFN President who in turn handed over to the LOC represented by Pinnick.