As the 21st National Sports Festival begins in Asaba, Delta state yesterday, the Executive Chairman of the Kwara State Sports Commission, Mallam Bola Mogaji said that the aims of introducing the multi-sports events have been defeated, even as he calls for a review.
Speaking to journalists in Ilorin before departing for Asaba, Mallam Mogaji said that the Games was designed by the Founding Fathers to achieve the ultimate in sports development, especially at the grassroots, but that there had been a great departure from that concept.
The National Sports Festival started in 1973 at the National Stadium, Surulere in Lagos, and was originally conceived as a “unifying tool” with the main purpose of promoting peace and cross-cultural affiliation in Nigeria after the Nigerian Civil War in 1970.
The game also serves as a development and training event to aid athletes prepare for continental and international meets.
According to Mallam Mogaji, “The Founding Fathers had good intentions when it was introduced in 1973. When we started in 1973, we had three categories, which were the junior, intermediate and the senior. The reason we had the three categories was for the athletes to graduate from one cadre to the other.
“After the first edition of the Games, they killed the junior category, leaving the intermediate and the senior categories. At the only festival that Kwara hosted in 1985, they killed the senior and left only the intermediate.
“They killed the festival itself when they decided that athletes who participated in two Games and one international competition are no more eligible to compete at the festival. So, I don’t know the objective of stopping some athletes from competing at the Games.
The instability in decisions guiding the Games have seen the festival opened and closed at one point or the other, until the introduction of the National Youth Games much later, to cater for the development of sports at the grassroots.
But Mallam Mogaji said that even though the intentions were genuine and good, the execution is faulty.
“The introduction of the National Youth Games would have taken care of the adequate development of sports at the grassroots, but there has been no sincerity to compensate for the bridging of that gap. We allow the use of aver-aged athletes in a festival that was designed for certain categories of ages.
While reacting to the participation of the state and the expectations, Mallam Mogaji, who commended the state Governor, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for supporting the state to field athletes, pledged that the state will surpass the previous records in Delta.
“I want to thank His Excellency for the opportunity. Again, for the first time, we are going to the festival with the highest number of athletes”, he added.
Mallam Mogaji, who is among those that, has participated in the festival as an athlete, coach and now administrator therefore, called for the adoption of a developmental structure that will bring the best out of the system.