Front Row: Chairman, Senate Committee on Sports, Senator Ibrahim Gumba, NASCOM Chairman, Mr Yemi Idowu, President Goodluck Jonathan, Sports Minister, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi and Director General, NSC, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye at the launch of the Rhythm 'n' Play project in Abuja Thursday PHOTO Godwin Omoigui
Launches Rhythm 'n' Play project in Abuja
By Muhammad Bello and Olawale Ajimotokan
President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday urged the Super Eagles to sustain the chase for a ticket to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by beating Namiba in Windhoek next week.
Jonathan tasked the team Thursday at the kick off of the Rhythm ‘n’ Play Mobilisation project initiated by the Nigerian Academicals Sports Committee (NASCOM).
He described as heart-warming Super Eagles 1-0 victory over Kenya in Nairobi on Wednesday and charged the team to focus on qualification for the World Cup next year.
He said government would provide all necessary assistance to set the country on the path towards achieving that objective.
The Rhythm and Play project will target and introduce about two million Nigerian children per year into sports through collaborative engagements of the National Sports Commission (NSC) and the Ministry of Education.
According to the president, sports is a veritable tool for creating national cohesion and also a major tool for mobilisation of youths for national development, adding that: ‘'Rhythm ‘n’ Play, the programme that we are launching today, is aimed at providing young Nigerians under the age of 17 years, structured programmes that combine sports and play as critical learning and development tools.
"As the biggest campaign for youth participation in sports ever launched in our country, this initiative will revolutionise grassroots sports in our dear nation. Our target is to introduce two million additional children to sports over the next two years.
"In this regard, I have directed the National Sports Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education, to work in concert towards achieving this target.
"Through this targeted effort, our administration intends to bring physical education back to our schools, and make participation in sports activities compulsory for all pupils and students," he declared.
He said, "Already, 2013 is turning out to be a success for the country in Sports. In February, our gallant Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations (AFCON). Two weeks ago, I hosted a joint Reception for the Golden Eaglets who represented the country at the African Under-17 Football Championship in Morocco as well as our junior athletics team which emerged overall winners of the maiden Under-18 African Athletics Youth Championship in Warri.
"They were honoured for their extra-ordinary feat and display of talent in their chosen sports at the international arena. So far, we are doing well in our effort to fly the country’s green-white-green flag in the FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil next year. This is a great moment for sports in Nigeria.
"We must build on this momentum and trend. We must take every step to ensure that our successes are sustained. We believe that grassroots sports development and nurturing provide the way."
Jonathan said he was aware of the fundamental constraints facing this initiative, such as inadequate sporting facilities and qualified coaches in many schools.
He however said he was determined to reverse the situation.
Minister of Sports, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said one of the conclusions of the presidential retreat hosted by Jonathan earlier in the year is to create opportunity for children to participate in sports.
He said the programme that was launched would rely heavily on music to mobilise children to take up one sport or the other.
He said his ministry would leverage on existing competitions to nurture Nigeria's future champions.
"Our target is to mobilise two million additional children in two years across the country through 12 zonal offices," he said.
The minister said school games masters would also be trained for the programme while sporting equipment would be delivered directly to schools across the country.
He said the ministry did not need to break a bank before it delivers on the programme's mandates since most of the facilities to be used would be improvised.
Chairman, Nigeria Academicals Sports Committee, Mr. Yemi Idowu, commended the president for initiating the project.
He said it made sense to increase the chances of discovering children that can take part in sports.
Idowu sought the support of the private sector for the programme, saying government alone cannot fund the programme adequately.
During the event, Jonathan was presented with his kit as the Grand Patron of the Rhythm 'n' Play campaign.
The President later in turn presented sports kits to 10 participating schools and decorated the Rhythm 'n' Play ambassadors that included musicians as well as actors and actresses.