Stakeholders Seek Funding, Infrastructure For Grassroots Sports Development– NAN Survey —Stakeholders have called for adequate provision of funds and basic infrastructure for the development of sports at the grassroots across the country.
The Grassroots Sports Development Department of the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development then, was created on June 3, 2009, to scout, identify and develop talents as among others.
In Akure, respondents, who spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that talents abound in Nigeria, but funding, corruption and administrative lapses were major challenges.
Oluwabusayo Akinbiola, Head, Department of Kinesiology Health Education and Research, Faculty of Education, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), said funding had caused tremendous setbacks for grassroots sports development in Nigeria.
“Although we have talented youths willing to take up sports at the grassroots across the country, funding and infrastructure have been a major challenge to their aspirations,“he said.
He said that there was a need to provide sporting facilities at the grassroots, to enhance sports development and eliminate youth restiveness and crime in the society.
Akinbiola said that the government alone cannot not develop sports at this level, adding that “there is a need for collaboration of other stakeholders.”
Olawuni Oladele , Permanent Secretary, Osun Ministry of Sports and Special Needs, said that the state government was working at reviving grassroots sports in the state.
He said that measures have been put in place to partner with stakeholders to revive sports at the grassroots in the state.
Oladele said that the state government was working hard to rehabilitate the Osogbo township stadium, and had built hostels at Iragbiji to accommodate sportsmen and women preparing for national and international competitions.
Rotimi Dunmoye, General Manager of the Osun Sports Council, said that the government has discovered talents and offered them contracts to boost grassroots sports programmes.
He attributed the dearth of sports at the grassroots to the absence of sponsorship, adding that if there is sponsorship; sports at the grassroots will thrive.
Dumoye said that the state of the economy and business environment had forced many potential companies to relocate elsewhere. Henry Babatunde, the General Manager of Ondo State sports Council (OSSC), blamed lack of clear cut policies, backed by law for grassroots sports development in the country.
He also attributed this ugly trend to inadequate funding, low private sector participation, corruption and misappropriation of funds by sports administrators.
Others according to him are lack of commitment on the part of the government among others.
“In other parts of the world, the government has little or no business in sports development; it’s the responsibility of the private sector to invest in sports.
According to Babatunde, many secondary schools today have no sport facilities or equipment and not because they do not want to have.
“What is given to principals of schools is not enough to take care of academic and health issues, not to talk of developing sports, “ he said.
“Money is earmarked yearly for our activities, but accessing the funds has been our major problem.
“When you don’t have access to funds, how will you organise regular sporting competitions, especially for the young ones,“he said.
In Niger, some stakeholders blamed corruption, poor reward system for the dearth of grassroots sports development in the country.
Mr Eche Amos, Media Officer, Nasarawa United Football Club said that the poor reward system for sports persons was a challenge, as most people were not encouraged to continue to get engaged in grassroots sporting activities.
“Back in the days people were motivated because they were rewarded handsomely even in school competitions. But today, you work like an elephant and get rewarded like an ant.
“Somebody goes to participate in a competition and win medals for the entire state and the highest you can give to that person is maybe N100, 000,“he said.
He blamed sports administrators for not carefully considering the developmental processes of grassroots sports development and focusing only on results.
Amos said that government policies should be structured in such a way that it becomes mandatory for sporting activities to be inculcated into the school’s curriculum.
Mr Leonard Abel, a sports analyst attributed the situation to lack of commitment from government and other stakeholders who should promote grassroots sports development.
“Sports in primary schools; where young talents should be harnessed, are virtually dead and nothing seriously is being done to change the narrative.
“So, you discover that now sport administrators engage in a crash approach by opening camps to hunt for talents ahead of competitions.
“The only way to change the narrative is to revive primary and secondary school sports,” he said. Abel called for the engagement of seasoned professionals to be saddled with the responsibility of administering grassroots sport development in the country.
Alhaji Baba Sheshi, Director of Sports in the State Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Niger, said the government was making efforts to resuscitate annual grassroots sports development.
“We want to encourage grassroots sports development by resuscitating grassroots school sports festivals.
“It is part of our plan that come 2024 we will reintroduce a grassroots school sports festival, where the children will compete from the primary school up to the secondary.
“It will ensure mass participation in sports by the teeming youth, instead of engaging in social vices that will not add value to their lives and the society,“he said.
He attributed the current dearth of grassroots sports in the state, especially in public and private schools, to lack of infrastructure and equipment.
He said that the government must make playing grounds for children a compulsory requirement before approving both public and private schools.
In Kogi, stakeholders said grassroots sports could only be developed with a strong commitment and will power of the government.
Bishop Aturu, Chairman of SWAN, Kogi Chapter said that to foster the growth of grassroots sports, it was crucial to build a foundation that nurtures community involvement and inclusivity.
“To develop grassroots sports, demands focusing on community engagement, accessible facilities, youth programmes, and partnerships with local schools,“he said.
In Enugu, stakeholders attributed the dearth of grassroots sports development to the absence of school sports competitions.
They called for revival of school sports to unearth raw talents. Gloria Ekuma, a Physical Education Teacher, said that the country needed to go back to the basics in order to revive grassroots sports.
“Academicals should collaborate with schools to ensure that talent hunt at the grassroots is revamped,” she said.
In Awka, Patrick-Estate Onyedum, Chairman of Anambra State Sports Development Commission, said the government had adopted grassroots sports as a way of developing sports.
Onyedum said that it has also reintroduced the school sports festival which had gone moribund in the state for more than 12years.
He said as a way of encouraging grassroots sports, the commission was constructing sports facilities and delivering equipment to select schools in the state.
“Anambra has decided to develop sports from scratch that is why we decided to start from schools.
“We have a programme called the Anambra Sports Solution Initiative (ANSSI), under it, we have our yearly school sports festival which started this year.
“The talents discovered at school sports were massive; some of them went to the youth games in Asaba and performed wonderfully.
“It is true that grassroots sports were not getting attention but we have decided to make it a priority,” he said.
In Bauchi, stakeholders said the lack of funding was a major obstacle militating against sustainable sports development at the grassroots.
They also attributed the trend to the non-participation of the private sector in the sponsorship of sporting events at the grassroots.
Audu Jahun, a former Director of Sports, Bauchi State Sports Council, said the trend hinders young players and athletes from developing their potential.
“Grassroots sports development required an exceptional programme and event managers, state associations, local media, sports facility owners, participants and the community to bring this to life,“he said.
Jahun also said that governments at various levels need to step up funding the sporting activities at the grassroots.
Bashir Idris-Said, a Bauchi-based sports administrator, who described grassroots sports as a breeding ground for talents, said that the lack of private sector investment was a challenge to the growth of grassroots sport.
In Gombe, Philibus Sarma, Chairman, Gombe Football Association called for adequate funding of sports programmes at the grassroots. Lack of political will coupled with the meager resources showed that sports are not being regarded as something valuable.
“We must consciously and deliberately create opportunities to develop grassroots sports, and review of school curriculum to re-introduce Physical Education.
“This will bring back the lost glory of grassroots sports to discover talents at the grassroots,” he said.