Sunday Okobi and Ugo Aliogo
Sports experts and enthusiasts in Nigeria have maintained that with heavy investment and conscious interest in developing sports for Nigerian youths, the country can solve the biting crises affecting its young populace.
They therefore called on the federal government to increase investment in youth sports development as part of efforts to improving sports and gainfully engaging the young people in the country in order to be at par with other countries like South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and others in Africa.
At the recently held Youths Sport/Business Summit in Lagos, the founder of Little Tigers Football Club, Mrs. Amaka Onyejianya Agbakoba, was of the opinion that despite being a sporting country, sportsâ€™ development has been mainly focused only on football (the most popular sport in the country).
Agbakoba, who was also one of the organisers of the summit, posited that there is need for government to focus its interests in other sports because â€œthere are so many areas in youthsâ€™ sports- management, the training, facilities as well as sports mentorship which are very important.â€
She stated that the forum was targeted at increasing participation in sports at the youth level, addressing the financial gaps in sports finance and infrastructure, advising that sports should also be focused as an alternative source of income, socialisation and business.
The lawyer cum sport expert told THISDAY that there is no commitment in driving the growth of youthsâ€™ sports development in Nigeria because of the perception that it is not lucrative, noting further that there is need for concerted efforts in developing the youths through different kinds of sports if the country is to explore the potential of its young population.
Agbakoba lamented that the goal of most Nigerian sports men and women is to compete for another country, which she noted should not have been if the government at all levels and the private sector place their foci on improving youthsâ€™ participation and interest in sport.
The founder of Little Tigers Football Club further stated that there is need to focus attention sports such as swimming, basketball, hockey, squash, cricket among others, adding that the private sector is really driving the growth of sports in this country, but there is also need for more support and improvement.
Collaborating Agbakobaâ€™s stance on sportsâ€™ development, the Chief Executive Officer of Sand Sport International Concept, Mr. Ola Tosin, urged the federal and state governments to show sincere commitment in developing sports in the country, lamenting that lack of facilities for athletes to train in the country has contributed to brain drain in the sport industry as many Nigerians prefer to represent other countries in major sporting events.
He also stated that the poor provision of welfare package for the countryâ€™s ex-sports men and women have led many to live a beggarly life, adding that in developed countries, ex-athletes who had brought glories to their countries are honoured, always remembered, and are attached to companies and institutions that would provide support after their active years.