Three days after the National Youth Games had started in Ilorin, Kwara state, the Rivers state contingent left Port Harcourt on Monday evening for the competition grounds, narrowly escaping road accident, as the basketball coach of River state, Fubara Oyanabo, revealed exclusively to aclsports.com.
Observers are of the view that this entire situation could have been avoided if funds had been released earlier for the 12 or 13 hours trip to the State of Harmony.
It will be recalled that aclsports.com reported the the Rivers state’s athletes’ protest against the state government, challenging the lack of funds to the contingent who ought to have traveled on Friday morning.
Consequent upon the protest, Governor Nyesom Wike promised to release funds for the competition. Rivers state currently does not have a commissioner of sports, as the governor had sacked his cabinet three months ago.
The expectations were, according to the athletes who spoke with aclsports.com anonymously, they would leave for the games on Saturday morning, hoping to meet up with some events scheduled for Tuesday morning, giving the governor’s assurances. But they never left till Monday evening.
The 14-hour road trip nearly led to an accident, Oyanabo said on as the team made their way to competition grounds Ilorin, arriving on Wednesday morning at 3:30pm, barely making it to compete that same day.
“We were not camped as all the athletes came from home. The team practiced few days before the games which started last Thursday. It took a protest to get the attention of Governor Neysom Wike on Friday, where he promised that funds will be released on Saturday. The players waited on Saturday but got called on Monday morning for departure.
“The players assembled on Monday by noon but traveled by 12:30am on Tuesday morning, we narrowly escaped accident due to the poor road network but arrived Ilorin by 3:30pm, playing two matches immediately.
“The kids went through hell and it’s quite unfortunate that we come from a place where militancy and cultists are the order of the day. If the youths and children who have decided to shun social vices to embrace sports cannot come for this event, I feel it’s dangerous” the coach said.
He disclosed that upon arrival, the team immediately got accredited and played two matches back to back winning their game against Plateau 25-24 (1st game), losing to Bauchi state by 21-48 (2nd game).
One of the athletes, John Kenoye said: “Immediately we arrived, the officials got us accredited and played two matches. Fatigue set in during the second match as we only tried our best but it was not enough.”
Queen John contributed to this report.