Stakeholders urge government to resuscitate grassroots sports
A cross-section of sportsmen, enthusiasts and administrators have urged governments at all levels to resuscitate grassroots sports across the country.
The respondents, who spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), urged the government to revive schools sports at the grassroots for the discovery of talents.
The Acting Director, Abia Sports Council, Obioma George, attributed the decline in grassroots sports development to the neglect by the government.
He said that the lack of sponsorship, fund and equipment was inimical to the development of grassroots sports in the country.
George said that the government of Abia had directed that the state goes back to the basics to develop sports from the grassroots.
“In Abia, we have started sensitisation in the 17 Local Government Councils with the Commissioner for Sports, Nwadinma Ananaba.
“The commissioner has directed that schools should devote at least two hours weekly for sports, thereafter, the inter school sports competition will start,” he said.
A former Super Eagles Goalkeeper, Ike Shorunmu, said that the country must start from the school programmes, if it hoped to get it right in sports development.
The goalkeeper Coach for Abia Warriors FC said the lack of funding and government’s commitment was the bane of the country’s sports development in recent times.
“Of course, there are lots of sports academies but it is much easier to get talents from schools because that is where you get their true age and the exceptional ones.
“We still need to go back to our school sports because it’s more real than what we see in the academy,” Shorumnu said.
Obijuru Ukegbu, Team Manager of Foster Football Academy, Umuahia, believes that the country can overcome the challenge of grassroots sports development by looking inwards.
“The Nigerian government should look into the academies because they will pick as many players as possible, be it Under 17, Under 19 or Under 20 players.
“We have an ongoing scouting programme with 16 clubs participating in our scouting matches,” Ukegbu said.
He said that grassroots sports development could only be achieved through a pragmatic private sector participation and investment.
The Commissioner for Sports, Abia, Emeka Okoronkwo, said there was a need for a robust private sector involvement in grassroots sports development to complement government efforts.
He said that the State Government was fully supporting sports development, especially with investments in the state-owned Heartland FC.
“Investment in the sports sector has led to the successes recorded by footballers and other athletes in the state,” he stated.