The National Sports Commission (NSC) is considering the introduction of age limit for the National Sports Festival, says a top official.
NSC Director-General Patrick Ekeji said that this was part of the commission’s ways of improving the quality of the biennial sports festival.
He also said the NSC was thinking of organising National Open for certain sports.
‘We keep on thinking of how to improve the National Sports Festival (NSF) and we have realised the need to look at the whole programme of the festival in order to make it better,” he said.
Ekeji spoke on the sidelines of the 17th National Sports Festival in Port Harcourt.
He said the NSC, in line with the new thinking, had been considering introducing the National Open for certain category of sports and athletes, while the festival will also be categorised.
‘It will be a National Open, which may not be for all sports but for those sports we have put on the Category A list, such as football, athletics, weightlifting, basketball, wrestling and table tennis.
“So, when we have this, the champions of the National Open will be our best athletes in those sports for that period and this makes them part of the Elite Athlete Programme.
‘Already, these sports have been put into the Nigeria Academicals Sports Committee (NASCOM) Programme too, and this will just go on to effectively enhance the plans,” he said.
The NSC chief said he was considering having the National Open early in the year to help serve as a preparatory ground for Nigerian athletes ahead of major international events.
‘It should come early in the year, for example in the first quarter of an Olympic Games year.
‘Athletes from there will automatically be the athletes that will more likely represent us at the Games. But this will also be subject to the athlete’s qualification for the Games,” he said.
Ekeji said this would afford Nigerians the opportunity of knowing ahead of time the athletes bound for the Games, and this would help in gathering total support for such athletes.
“All Nigerians, and especially all those that can be helpful, such as in the private sector, can key into the plans of preparing such athletes for the Games,” he said.
The DG said the introduction of the National Open would enhance the thinking on plans to have the National Sports Festival as an age-limit event.
‘We now need to take another look at the festival as it is organised now, vis-à-vis whether it is really what it should be and what it should be now in view of emerging trends.
“It is actually expected to be a developmental programme in view of the rules that bar athletes who have participated in it three times and those who have had two senior international appearances from it.
“But we can look at a way of making it age-grade, so that we can now harness more of our sports talents at that level before pushing them into the National Opens and other major events where they will therefore be prepared as Elite Athletes,” he said.
Ekeji, however, expressed great joy at recent events which he was hopeful would help the NSC in its attempt at raising the bars of performance at the festival.
“I am pleased that more great value has been added to the festival with the introduction of trophies. But more pleasing is President Goodluck Jonathan’s added cash boost and his challenge to all stakeholders.
“What President Jonathan has done has boosted our efforts at improving on performances at the festival and making it more attractive to the organised private sector.
“Now, we at the NSC will ensure we get the OPS to know that there is no reason not to support Jonathan in helping to make the sports festival more of what it is intended to be, which is a breeding ground for future Nigerian leaders through sports,” he said.