For the third year running, team Lagos was absent from the National Youth Games (NYGs) which took place last month at Ilorin, Kwara state. This development left athletes and coaches fuming at the state as the event presents them with a chance to be selected for upcoming international tournaments.
Aclsports.com’s Sola Oyeniyi in an interview with the Special Adviser to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Sports and the Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC), Mr Deji Tinubu, tried to find out what exactly happened.
“I said in an interview a couple of days ago: first of all, we should discountenance the notion that Lagos doesn’t preach the gospel of sports development. The number of grassroots programmes and school competitions that we do justifies that.
We have to understand that there’s a little shift from the norm because we want to create other pathways and in the very near future, those things would begin to gel. We’re disappointed that the team didn’t attend the youth games, but it doesn’t mean there’s still nothing for them. It’s just a shift from the norm because of the reforms that’s going on in Lagos State sports.”
Can you share some of these reforms? “What we will see is that we’re going to have clearer pathways for the youth to be able to excel in their sports. That’s what we’ve always said we will do and that’s what we want to do. Like I said, maybe we should be patient a little bit and very soon, we will begin to see these pathways because when you’re creating something different and moving in a different direction, it’s going to affect some things. So we are looking at the bigger picture of a more structured and organised way for our youths to quickly reach their potentials,” Mr Tinubu said.
He added that the absence of team Lagos at the national youth games had nothing to do with the redeployment of the Director General of the LSSC by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
On the allegation that the Lagos state sports commission is more interested in building sports infrastructure and organising international competitions at the expense of the development of athletes in the state, hence the reason a grassroots event like the NYGs was neglected he said: “Youth Games wasn’t neglected. There was a shift in focus. Over the last two years, the amount of grassroots events and competitions we’ve done in itself lets you know that we are focused on something and by the grace of God we know what we’re doing.
Everything goes hand-in-hand. We need facilities. There’s no point in breeding athletes and they don’t have facilities. Apart from the Onikan stadium; we’ve earmarked Ikorodu, Badagry and the Maracana stadium in Ajegunle to build sports facilities there. The long-term thing is that, we don’t want people to be too far away from a standard sport facility and it’s going to take a couple of years to do that but that’s the plan. If we do that and people in Badagry and Ikorodu have a standard stadium, they’ll be happy.” He added that “a standard stadium: would boost sports in that area, would make people would come out to use the facility, means schools’ inter-house sports would have a standard place to go to and even in that division you can now organise in such a way that you are attracting spectators and interests from the local private sector. So, all these things go hand-in-hand in grassroots development.”
To the athletes who felt disenfranchised and disappointed with the commission Mr Tinubu said: “they shouldn’t be too disappointed. They should just believe in us and then they would see how things go in the next couple of months. They should believe in what we’re trying to do and they will understand in the very near future.”