By Amaechi Agbo
The 2019 National Youth Games, NYG, will commence from September 7 through 17.
The Director of Grassroots Sports, Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Dr Ademola Are who disclosed this in an interview added that the Ministry is putting every modality in place to ensure a hitch-free games in the University of Ilorin, Kwara State.
What is the level of preparation ahead of the games?
The 2019 National Youth Games will be coming up on the 7th to 17 of September, 2019 at the usual venue, University of Illori, Kwara State. The university is still hosting it because of the five-year Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, signed between the University and the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
As at today, we are putting all efforts to make sure we have a more successful and befitting NYG. The age remains 15 and below and registration is ongoing with just about two or three states yet to register.
But I am sure they are going to comply before the end of this week. We have already had our technical meetings with the officials in the University two months ago. All the state are ready, all the sub-committees are also working and we are looking forward to early release of funds to make sure that we have effective planning not just planning theoretically. We need the fund to plan well and the ministry is supporting us along this line.
I can assure you that between now and end of the month, things will take proper shape.
Are there fines for states who did not register before the deadline?
What I meant by saying some states are yet to register is that as at today, they are still making efforts to finalise their registration not that they are not going to register.
Of course, any state that did not register, we cannot penalise such a state but once you register but failed to show up, you will be penalised because it will affect our logistics including accommodation, feeding, transportation and the rest.
However, if any state did not register at all, we would find out why.
Are there new sports to be introduced in this year’s Games?
Yes, shooting is already on, football still remains and maybe one or two other sports like traditional sports which is already on too. We will have one or two demonstrative games and we have 34 sports in all. It is expanding every year because the essence of it is that this is the only programme that we can bring in as many children as possible. We want to create more awareness in the lives of these children so that they can know the benefits of sports. And also identify talents and bring them together, creating the much needed unity among them as well as ensuring cultural exchanges.
Last year, three athletes were stripped of their medals based on age cheat. What are the mechanisms you have put in place to avoid age cheat this year?
I want to tell you that as human beings, we cannot emphatically eradicate age cheating but it can be reduced minimally. Last year three athletes were stripped of their medals and the message is simple; no director would want his or her athlete to be stripped of a medal won because it is a disgrace to the state, the athlete and it damages the image of the affected director.
So with the measures put in place and effective screening that we are improving upon on yearly basis, I can tell you that the issue of age cheating, if it is going to come up at all, it will be at the lowest ebb of the programmes. Therefore, we are doing everything possible to make sure this is reduced to the barest minimum.
Are we going to see gymnastic this year?
In conjunction with various federations, we have sports that will be medal winning at the games. It is an ongoing thing because some federations are still making efforts to impress it on the ministry why certain events should not take place. But you know we have some constraints such as accommodation. We cannot take more athletes than the available accommodation at the university. The same thing about officiating officials. When we look at officiating officials, most of the funds go to them. We spend over N20 million on officials alone.
It costs the federal government so much to host these games. So we are trying as much as possible to look at those areas where we can reduce cost of hosting the games visa-vis the University in bringing out the athletes that will actually take part in these games.
What are you doing to encourage states to feature athletes in team sports such as football, Basketball, volleyball?
At the zonal levels, we are increasing the number of states that will qualify from the zones. In fact, we have made it that two states will qualify from each zones so that the idea of having just three states in a team sport will not be there anymore. But do not forget that sometimes you cannot avoid this situation because if a state qualified to represent a zone, you will expect that the state would show up at the games proper. Unfortunately, due to their own situations in the states, we cannot determine whether team A or B would be present. However, we are trying to determine that by increasing the number of teams that will qualify from each zone such that instead of one team coming from a particular zone, we can now have two which will help us form a quorum in order to meet the target.
A state came in last year after the games have started, is there no penalty for late arrival of state contingents?
We try to mellow down on some of these things. For instance, we have states coming from distant areas such as maidugri, Calabar, which are far places and when you look at their challenges you don’t have option. When you consider their funding which does not normally come on time, you will understand that that is basically what delays almost all of them.
But this year we have given them two days of grace such that all states with their contingents will be in Ilorin between 7 and 8 September then on the 9th, we will do our screening and finalise it. Any state that did not take part in screening, is out of the games.
But sometimes when you see these children having suffered and travelled over 500km to come to Ilorin and you ask them to go home, they will start crying. They are children just below 15 years. So in all we try to look at circumstances that will not affect their performances in the games proper. Whatever happens, we make sure we solve the problems as they come.
But we have our base line rules and regulations so that majority will not bring in sentiments on certain issues. But I can tell you that we are doing everything we can to ensure that we accommodate all these things.
Take for instance, if a state is coming and their buses break down on their way, how do we handle such? That is not their fault and as such, we need to be flexible and accommodating. We look at issues and create an enabling environment for everybody to be part of the Games.
What are the new things Nigerians should be looking forward to in this year’s games?
We want to bring in fully culture and music in this particular edition. These are children and with music, they get more motivated and create the enthusiasm in them.
We are trying to bring in Small Doctor and others who was in Egypt to perform. We want to see how we can bring them in to create more awareness for the Games at the University of Ilorin. Apart from that, there will be cultural shows from some of the states probably during the match past.