Sports Minister, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi
The National Sports Commission (NSC) said Monday that the proposed National U-17 Games, would now replace the National Sports Festival (NSF) in talent discovery in the country.
Sports Minister, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said in Abuja that the NSF had failed to achieve its primary objective of discovering budding talents.
“Do you know the average age of athletes that competed at the 18th NSF in Lagos?
“I set up a monitoring team to discover new talents for us at the festival and the committee came up with the list of new talents and the average age was 24.
“At 24, Usain Bolt had already done two Olympics; so, if it is at the age of 24 you want to start discovering talents, then it’s too late,” Abdullahi said.
According to the minister, the bi-annual NSF would now be thrown open to elite athletes, while the U-17 Games beginning this year as an annual event, would involve children in schools.
“These children have the opportunity to compete twice at the U-17 games before they now go to the biennial NSF which will be an open event.
“We are not introducing anything new; we are only saying, let us rediscover the framework that has worked for Nigeria.
“That’s my argument and I am convinced it’s the best way to go,” he added.
Abdullahi also disclosed that the U-17 Games would feature all sports disciplines, while the NSF would feature sports that the country would participate in at international competitions.
“There is probably nothing you can do to stop a man who is determined to cheat.
“However, what you can do is to try to set up a system that could at least limit the opportunity for cheating in that regard.
“If you are not in school, you will not be part of the U-17 games, though some people don’t agree with me on this because they believe there are so many talented children that are not in school.
“We have run the Universal Basic Education since 1999; if you want to encourage other children to be in school (basic education), we should stop making excuses for those who are not in school.
“If one is in school, it means we will have access to the age filled by the child when he or she entered school,” Abdullahi added.