By Sylvanus Ofekun
The Minister of Youth and Sport Development, Mr Sunday Dare has said the ministry is prioritizing grassroot sports while exploiting other ways of reviving interest at that level because grassroot sports is investment in the younger generation.
An interactive session with the Forum of State Directors of Sports held at the ongoing National Youth Games in Ilorin Kwara State, the Minister expressed his concern that the culture of supporting sports had dwindled over the years while charging the Directors that they have the responsibility for reviving grassroot sports at state level.
“Within the first week of taking office I was very clear about the direction I want to take. One is grassroot sports development and it is domiciled with the states. That’s why I’m meeting with this team first because it is important. It is often said that the gold is in the child. When a person wins gold at 18-19 years old that person must have been working on it since being a child.
“The National Youth Games are the greatest opportunity we have to re-launch grassroot sports. We need to get new talents,” he stressed.
At a courtesy visit to the Kwara state Deputy Governor, Mr Kayode Alabi ,said that the National Youth Games has been strategic in identifying young talents that Nigeria needs to groom for the future, and that Kwara state, which has hosted the games is an example to other states, since it is now being considered to host other national and continental tournaments.
Mr Alabi expressed confidence that grassroot sports will be revived with the Minister’s approach, saying that “we pray with the new minister that something will be done. Athletics is something that is very important. A lot of young people are going into drug addiction right now, but sports is one avenue that can be used to prevent that.”
The Minister, during his visit to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, said that the institution, in view of its avalanche of sports facilities, would be considered as one of the tertiary schools to be designated as Centre of Excellence in Sports, which are being considered to be in each of the geo-political zones.
He said “The University has held its own academically and more importantly in the field of sports. The university is a multi sports centre. Beyond the national youth games we will consider and recommend this University to host national and continental tournaments. UNILORIN will be one of the centres of sports excellence to be announced.
“The ministry is committed to developing grassroots sports. We want to revive the past where talents are discovered at young age from events like these,” he stressed.
The Vice Chancellor University of Ilorin, Professor Sulyman Age Abdulkareem expressed the confidence that sports will continue to unite the country noting that “Sports can bring the Nation together. When it comes to sports people don’t ask where you come from.
The Minister promised that his ministry will continue to provide technical support and capacity building to state to ensure that they are able to play their role as a critical component in the discovery of new talents in the country.
The Directors, who asserted that grassroot sports have come to stay, committed to supporting the minister to succeed in improving Nigeria’s sports fortunes. They expressed their willingness to be part of any innovative funding strategy evolved by the minister.