The FCT Director of Sports, Chief MrsDilichukwuOnyedinma has stated that some embassies in the country are seeking collaboration with the Sports Department on how to develop grassroots sports in the federal capital territory.
Chief Onyedinma who disclosed this in an exclusive interview said that Japanese Embassy is among many other embassies in the country seeking collaboration with the FCT Sports Council on grassroots development.
Speaking on the achievements her office recorded last year, the former Chairperson of the Nigeria Women Football League, NWFL, said that the FCT Sports Departments achieved a lot in the year under review stressing that while her targets this year is to consolidate on the gains made over the years by ensuring that the talents so far discovered are nurtured for future exploits, the council would, nonetheless, introduce more sporting activities in the FCT so as to keep the residents busy. She further explained that one of her major priorities this year was to provide sporting facilities that are female-friendly so that the women in the FCT can be encouraged to take to sports, even if not for career purposes, then for their health and body balance.
How would you x-ray FCT Sports Department’s achievements in 2017?
Last year, we did achieve a lot. We started the FCTAjogging and aerobic exercise which was approved by the minister. We started it and there was a very good turn out by the FCT staff. The purpose was to build a strong work force for the FCT. We are going to improve on it and this year’s edition will come by the first week of March. We are going to do it monthly and we are working onthat.
Aside that, you are aware of our performances in youth games;apart from the national competitions, we attended invitational tournaments where we won some trophies in table tennis, volleyball, long tennis, crickets.We also won different trophies in chess and scrabbles. Why we embarked on invitational tournaments is to make sure that the training we are giving to our children is yielding results. At the same time, we also attend wrestling championship in Port Harcourt where our wrestlers performed very well and came back with medals.
We also participated in the CBN Cup which was organised by the Table Tennis Federation, TTF and our children did very well. Our coaches are also doing excellent jobs in the day-to-day training they are giving our children. Any time we are going for competitions, we always do well. So I give kudos to them. By the time we attend the National Sports Festival or even the Youths Games coming up soon, we will do better than we did last year.
Again, there is an invitation for grassroots competition that is coming up in April and we are training towards that. I know that based on what we achieved last year; we already have the children on ground for the competition.
In athletics, we were able to discover one of the youngest athletes that won medals last year and the girl is doing well currently. We are discovering athletes and we are building on that for subsequentcompetitions.
You are an advocate of girl-child sports participation. What are your goals or plans for the girl-child in sports this year?
Last year we started female league in the FCT. You know that all these while there has been only male league but last year we started the female league and today I am happy because as the males are playing, the females are playing too. In basketball we have male and female and they are all doing well. Some of the players they have picked from our basketball court at Area 10 are girls. So in everything we do, we make sure that the girls are involved.
We are also looking at establishing some sports facilities in some neighborhood parks so that wherever you are in the FCT, you can access recreation. We can do that by selecting few parks and make them female-friendly. There are games that ladies like to play, so we make the park ladies-friendly for them. That will encourage them to go there and do whatever they want to do.
When you want to make a place women-friendly for sports, you have to consider the fact that male and female have different dimensions and approaches in sports. For instance, the basketball that male use is not the same as the one that the female use. There is a marked difference between the two. The same thing applies to volleyball. The ones that men use are always heavier and harder than the ones the women play.
Even in football, sometimes, the timing is different. You can come to a football field where the timing is 35 minutes for the ladies. A man would not like to play in such pitches because he will feel that 35 minutes are not enough for him, he will grumble and work away. So there are things that will make a particular place women-friendly and we are looking at that.
Few weeks ago, the Japanese Embassy visited your office for collaboration on developing basketball. Is there any other embassy with such move?
A lot of embassies are working with us. Korea Embassy is already working with the FCT Taekwondo Association. The Korea Embassy sent our athletes and official to Korea last year for training.
The Japanese Embassy is also around with their coaches training our athletes and as I am speaking with you, they have picked six athletes whom they have given scholarships. The scholarship is so interesting that any child that gets the scholarship should be able to send money to his parents as well. It is a very good thing, they are helping us and the youths are very happy for it. Throughout last two week, we were at the basketball court to show them our youths and what they can do and they were happy.
After that visit to the basketball courts, they left the FCT for Akure to scout for talents in basketball but they came back and said they could not see anyone. So they were happy we gave them the children they needed. The children were selected from the schools in the FCT and now they are going to get the scholarship, it will be good for all of us, the parents and the society at large.
We are also working with Chinese Embassy who has promised that if we conclude our arrangements, they will be taking five athletes for six months training every year. They will go there and after the training, they will come back. Some of their coaches can follow them as well. However, they need underage children who are 15 years. Those are the children they believe are trainable. They will be training them on Table Tennis and Badminton.
Last week, somebody came from the Hungarian Embassy to inform us that they want to organise a road race just like a mini marathon. I have scheduled a meeting with them to discuss further on this but the issue there is that we are trying to see how we can get sponsorship from outside to help the youths because everything should not be government. If we throw all our activities or what we need to do for government, then the funds will be too outrageous.We are spreading our tentacles to other places to see how we can get the private sector to key into our activities so that the youths will be better for it.
Again, it is part of cooperate social responsibilities for some of these corporate bodies and private sectors to give back to the society. By so doing, they are helping us, helping themselves and they are helping the society. We want them to contribute their own quota as people who have a share in the society. We are happy for what is happening and the way we are going, a lot will be achieved this year.
Last year, Abuja contingents presented the youngest team at the national youths games, what plans have FCT Sports put in place to consolidate on this and ensure that more medals are won in next edition?
What we are doing right now is to make sure we don’t lose our athletes to other teams. From what we did last year, many states have been moving around to take one or two of our athletes to their states. So to avoid this happening, we have reached out to the parents of our athletes and told them that we would not want such to happen and they gave us their words.
We have a very young chess players and they are very good and are becoming better every day. A state like Delta wants to come and take the chess players but we have discussed with their parents to make sure that it does not happen.
Also in handball, University of Ilorin gave scholarship to some of our players to study in the university. I know that there will be that influence or pressure on them to play for the school since they are on scholarship but they are still our players. If they are still within the age, we will have them play for us.
Other things we are doing are to ensure that the ones we have are being trained every day.The coaches are doing their best and we are reaching out to their parents to make sure that they don’t lose track of their skills so that when we have competitions, they will be able to give their best.
What plans does the FCT Sports have ahead of the national sports festival?
We don’t have plans again because since five years we have been planning and planning. Right now we are waiting for a day to be fixed so that National Sports Festival will eventually happen. If that happens, we have players on ground whoare training and we are looking forward to the competition. The National Sports Festival was last held in 2012, five years running and we are in 2018. If they say they want to hold it today, then, we will bring out the five years plans we have put togetherand I know that it will yield results.