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Feature: Anambra Sports Sector Still in Search of Development Blueprint

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Feature: Anambra Sports Sector Still in Search of Development Blueprint

By Chimezie Anaso, Nigeria News Agency

For more than a year after scrapping of the Ministry of Sports and creating the Anambra Sports Development Commission (ASDC), enthusiasts are still awaiting the blueprint for development of sports in the state.

Although stakeholders in the sports sector have expressed displeasure over the decision of the state government to scrap the ministry in 2018 after it was painstakingly but successfully granted ministry status from Anambra Sports Council in 1999.

Some of those that opposed the policy included retired sports administrators, veteran sportsmen, the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and the association of coaches in the state who petitioned the governor, Head of Service and other authorities.

While some argued that it was sequel to the proverbial “going back to Egypt” and that the state lacked the sports infrastructure that was amenable to such structure, staffers in the defunct ministry feared for the security of their jobs.

It will interest us that sports has been managed in the state under various structures, including Sports Council, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Youth Entrepreneurship and Sports Development and now ASDC.

Opinions are that what is more important above nomenclature, however, is a clear cut blueprint that guarantees development of sports and athletes on a sustainable basis.

A blueprint that will show what Anambra people should expect in the sector in terms of training for coaches and athletes, upgrade and building of more sports infrastructure which is grossly lacking within a given period.

But to the credit of ASDC under its pioneer chairman, Tiny Oli, there is a monthly 10-kilometre “Walk for Life” which started in November last year and has held consistently on every first Saturday.

The monthly walk which is aimed at increasing awareness on the need to keep fit among the cross section of the citizenry is fast becoming a culture but real sportsmen are still at loss as to how it translates to development of sports.

Victor Nwangwu, a retired footballer and seasoned sports administrator, commended the ASDC for creating awareness on healthy living among the people, noting that sedentary lifestyle was taking a negative toll on the health of the people.

Nwangwu, however, noted that the activity was more of promoting sports rather than developing it.

Arthur Ebunam, chairman of Ex-Rangers International FC of Enugu players in Anambra, said he had participated in the Monthly Walk but had long abandoned it had no additional effect on him as a sportsman.

Ebunam said the activity had no impact on the question of sports development as it was neither competitive nor listed like the annual Okpekpe Race in Edo State which attracts international runners and promoted tourism in the country .

He said what is needed was a framework that would guarantee systematic development of talented youths.

Ebunam said it was regrettable that while some states had gone into camping ahead of national competitions like sports festival, there is no state-owned facility where athletes could train.

“We need to keep our athletes and their various coaches busy in camps and sports centres where they will be training, that is sports development in action.

“Anybody can go to Ekwueme Square or any other opens space to keep fit, monthly walk should not be a cardinal programme of a serious Sports Commission,” he said.

The football season which was meant to have six competitions run concurrently was envisaged to keep no fewer than 45, 000 footballers from primary schools to tertiary institutions busy on the pitch while it lasted.

According to Oli, we have launched our football season which started on Nov. 30 last year and will run till May 27 when the final will hold.

“There will be six competitions in the season, these are the Secondary Schools Academicals that is the Governor’s Cup, Kiddies Cup for Primary Schools and Kings Cup for the 179 communities.

“Others are the Market Exchange Cup for traders, Security Challenge Cup for the security agencies and the Tertiary Cup for the higher institutions in the state.

“We are currently distributing about 1,500 ASDC branded footballs to them and by the time the kick off is done next week, about 45,000 youths will be actively involved in sports unknowingly because of the multiplier effects it will have.

“As the football season is going on, we shall be having our School Sports Festival where we hope to identify the talented young ones that will represent us at the National Youth Sports Festival (NYSF).

“We want to have a pattern, no more fire brigade approach to national competitions again,” he said then.

The football season eventually ended on June 3, with just three competition, including those for primary schools, secondary schools and security agencies.

A source in the Anambra Football Association (FA) revealed that the final for Traders Cup, Tertiary Institutions and Community Shield will not come again this season as some never kicked off while one was abandoned midway.

But Nwangwu, who was a long time secretary of Anambra FA, said football was just one aspect of sports that should not be pursued at the expense of the others.

While expressing dissatisfaction with the standard of matches he saw, the former Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Match Commissioner, said staging football competition of such magnitude without plans of where the discovered talents would go to is near futile.

He said what was needed was to reactivate school sports and float a state football team where the promising ones could progress into instead of the present situation where players of Anambra origin go all over the country begging for employment.

He commended Gov. Willie Obiano for his political will to do something different in sports by setting up the commission, but noted that there was need for structure and blueprint that is amenable to comprehensive sports development.

“It is prerogative of the governor to decide the structure he wants for the sports commission, including sole administrator, but as an administrator, I advise that stakeholders need to sit at a roundtable and chart a way forward,” he said.

Oli has on his part argued that Anambra got its best record at the National Sports Festival (NSF) since the last in 1998 when he led the state contingent to Abuja in December last year.

He attributed their success in Abuja to the level of motivation, determination and passion in the team.

According to him, for the records, we won five gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze medals that placed us in the 16th position on the overall medals table.

Anambra’s best outing at the NSF was in Bauchi 2000 where it won four gold, eight silver and 18 bronze to emerge 23rd.

“This was followed by Ogun 2006 with four gold, four silver and six bronze to emerge 23rd on the table, while their worst outing was in EKO 2012 where it finished 30th with no gold, three silver and two bronze.

“So, that is the best we have had in the past 20 years; so, it is a good starting point, it may not have met our expectations because we were aiming higher,” he said .

This fact did not impress Nwangwu who said it is not backed with evidence of proper build up.

“It is not correct to say there is an improvement, we know how medals come in competition, we need to know where those athletes trained, which facilities were they using and what were they doing before the festival,” he said.

The state of sports in Anambra also worries sports writers in the state when they described the inadequacy of sports infrastructure as unacceptable and regrettable.

The Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) in a communiqué issued recently, called on ASDC to comprehensively address development of the various sports, especially those Anambra had comparative advantage in.

“SWAN calls on Gov. Willie Obiano to order proper constitution of ASDC both in organisational structure and scope to accommodate relevant stakeholders, including sports associations.

“ASDC as it is presently structured is not amenable to comprehensive sports development in Anambra.

“SWAN commends the efforts of ASDC at developing the Anambra sports sector but wish to observe that the commission’s activities are largely seen in its monthly Walk for Life and soccer.

“SWAN therefore, calls for activities in other sports, including Athletics, Table Tennis, Volleyball, Basketball, Handball, Cricket, Combat Sports and others,” the communique said.

Sports development is a shared responsibility as well as a media event, the sport-loving people deserve to know what is happening in the sector and the trajectory of development that has been designed by those in charge of the sector.

They say the sector must not be like a rudderless ship in mid sea nor managed on knee jerk approach. (NANFeatures)

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