January 4, 2020

We ‘ll change the fundamentals of our sports development —Dare

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By Jacob Ajom

Sunday Dare is just a few months in office as Minister of Youth and Sports Development but the    few steps he has taken so far point to a new direction in the administration of sports in the country.

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Dare’s developmental and athlete-oriented policy thrust was underlined by the recent “adopt an athlete, adopt a facility” campaign he unveiled in Lagos December last year.

At the launch which held at the Civic Centrem Victoria Island Lagos, Dare drew corporate bodies, rich individuals and organisations to the venue. The result was outstanding as some bought into the idea and “adopted” promising athletes while some others adopted facilities for renovation.

Any person or organisation that adopts an athlete will fund the athlete’s training, tours and take care of payment for his/her doctor, nutritionist, psychologist, etc. This is particularly timely as they train for the Olympic Games which come up in Tokyo, Japan this year. Adopting one foreign based athlete attracts $20,000 US Dollars while the home-based athletes get #10,000 as adoption fee. At the end of the event that night, 14 athletes were adopted. The campaign, according to the minister will be continuous as he intended to take it to Abuja and Port Harcourt.

The Minister spoke with journalists after the Lagos event and Sports Vanguard was there.


Which athletes are we looking at for adoption?

We are looking at potential medal-winning athletes who can win us medals at the Olympics, medal hopefuls. Whatever they get has to be as a result of the organic relationship between the individual adopted and the organisation that adopted him/her.

Will this impact on our preparation for the Tokyo Olympics?

Definitely. When you look at it, in the past, the bane of our preparations has been affected by anumber of factors. One, we don’t start early enough, but I think this time we have started by appreciating the steps that are critical. We have announced the sports that we will be concentrating, this time 11 of them. We are already interacting with the athletesand the teams that have qualified.

We are also looking directly at the issue of technical depth, which is coaching, training and the trials. The athletes are so critical and all you need is to keep monitoring them very closely and you need a level of funding.

What you see here today is as a result of our meeting with the athletes. We sat down and asked each od them what their needs were: coaching, camping, trials, etc. How much will it cost? With did this with the home based athletes and another with the foreign based athletes. So this event is very timely as after here, we are going to move to Abuja and Port Harcourt to do the same thing. By the time we are through with all this, Nigerians will key into the Olympic spirit

Would this occasion also cover the devekoment of facilities as well?

Why not? The Adopt an Athlete campaign has three components namely, Adopt an Athlete, Adopt a sports centre and thirdly, adopt a spot facility.We have seen one tonight. Dagote has adpted the MKO Abiola stadium football pitch. He will renovate the pitch, scorenoard, the light and maintain it for two years. It is in progress as they have to engage the experts who will inspect the place and give a budget. Once the budget is approved work begins. Maybe this January, work should begin there.

The Township Stadium, up north someone has also adopted it. Mational Stadium Lagos, I just announced someone has agreed to adopt it, to renovate the pitch, the scoreboard, etc. There is a lot of work to be done.

I also have two or three other people who have agreed to adopt the sports centre, the Basketball court in Abuja, the Tennis court in Abuja, so its a progressive way.

I have just been in office for s hundred and eleven days. It is a long journey although we have the fundamentals of what we want to do tied down and nowwe have the template and a blueprint. All we need to do is to follow it step by step.

The Olympics is so close. Is it a race against time for the country?

No. It’s not a race against time. When you look at our athletes right now, most of them have qualified already and most of them are foreign based who engage – not just in their academics but also in the qualifiers. What they need now is to give them the resources that would place them on a plan, a training plan like their counterparts from other nations who are placed on plans. Some are in France, some in Germany, some are in altitude training, etc. We need to roll out a plan and by {this}January you will see the plan we have for them. We also have five camping cites across the country we will soon roll out our camping plan, which we will match with what our foreign based athletes are doing at the moment. This time we are getting the resources, working the details and engaging directly with athletes.

I think those are the things that are important this time. We are on course.

What informed your taking this campaign to the Nigerian Economic Forum Group?

Our sports development lacks the business model. When you look at the other countries we compete against at global sporting events, they have the business model that drives their sports and then you will know that Nigeria is lagging behind. We about to change the fundamentals of that so that our narrative may change. It means a lot, not only to the sports men and women who serve this country who will now be better served through grants, their welfare through what they also make through merchandising, it will also benefit the retired athletes who will reap from their past efforts as we go along as there would be a special fund that will cater for them.

For the mass of our youths, it’s also a good story. We all know sports is the biggest employer of labour, we see how the sports industry creates jobs in the millions we have youths in this country that needs to be engaged. For a country that needs new revenue sources – oil prices are unstable – this country needs new revenue sources and I think sports can provide that. You know the global sports industry is worth $1.3 trillion plus, in the UK alone, it is about $3.4.billion, in the US about $4.5 billion. In this country with a population of over 100 million with our purchasing power, we konow that if we are able to turn sports into a viable industry, all of us will enjoy.

What is the preparations for the Olympics?

We are following the blueprint. That is why we were in Morocco for the All Africa Games, that is why we were in Doha for the World Championships, that is why our Basketball team D’Tigers were in China for the FIBA World Cup after playing some very tough games in the qualifiers, that is why D’Tigress have played three qualifiers successfully, that is why today we have 18 athletes that are already Olympic bound.

We have rolled out our plans and we are going to focus on 11 sports, it might come down to 9 because we are waiting for the final qualifiers. We are going for sporting activities that we know we have a competitive edge. We are employing a scientific approach this time. We created a dashboard. We will look at athletes that have qualified, some that will eventually qualified. We will match them with those athletes they are going to race against at the Olympics, we will look at their timings and then we will see how we can decide what steps to take next.

We just launched adopt an athlete campaign, for the first time in the history of this country. It was successful as 14 athletes were adopted. What does this mean? It simply means these athletes would be provided with the support they need in terms of going for trials, paynebt for their coaches, for the medication and nutrients they need to keep them fit and ready to compete in Tokyo.

We are following the template and I know in a couple of days the AFNwill release their plan and the ministry will stay in touch in an organic way with every of our athlete that will wear the Nigerian colour in Tokyo.

The campaign has just been launched and in a couple of days some organisations will get across to us. The awareness the understanding will cascade down. We have documents, commitment cards, we have our team from the ministry who will be interfacing with them etc The awareness has been created. It is a continuous thing.

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For those who are yet to qualify, when they eventually qualify, we will merge them with thos who have been adopted. Don’t forget, the adoption is just some kind of extra support, some kind of subsidy as government will still play its role but we also want private sector participation in the spirit of the Olympics..We want that spirit to be shared among Nigerians.