By Pamela Eboh
In his effort to return Anambra State on the spring board of sports in Nigeria, the Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo has set the ball rolling for a sporting fiesta to be hosted at the local, zonal and state level among schools across the twenty local government areas of the state.
The School Sports Festival which would be the first in the state after about a decade will kick off on May 17th and end on May 24th.
Addressing members of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Anambra chapter at the Sports Commission in Awka on Tuesday, the Chairman, Anambra Sports Development Commission, ASDC, Mr. Patrick Estate Onyedum said the tournament will host ten different sporting games.
They include, Athletics, Scrabble, long jump, Chess, Table Tennis, Swimming, Volleyball, Taekwando, Basketball, Football, while Cricket would come in as a demonstration game.
Onyedum who was represented by the technical consultant to the Commission, Oluyomi Sule, said that fifteen thousand pupils and students will participate as school sports return in Anambra No fewer than 15,000 pupils and students in public and private schools in Anambra State would take part in the sports fiesta tagged, Anambra Sports Solution Initiative (ASSI).
According to him, the competition which is grouped into U13 and U17 is open to all public and private primary and secondary schools across the twenty one Local Government Areas of the state.
While saying that registration for participating schools is free, he added that schools are expected to pick forms to register their wards from April 28 to May 12 at the Sports Commission office, LGA Education Department Offices and Private School Proprietors Association Representatives.
Onyedum said the event would commence on May 17 with community schools competition through LGA and Senatorial zone qualifiers and end with state finals between 21st June and 24th June.
He said, “The sports festival is targetted at developing athletes that will represent the state at youth competitions like under 17. The Selected athletes will be camped at the Rojenny stadium, Oba where they will be further trained by professionals in the game.
“Governor Soludo is solidly behind sports growth in Anambra. The tournament is a development programme, so we are starting from the grassroots, the local government level, senatorial zones, then wrap it up at the state level. We do not want to leave any child out. We are calling on principals and head teachers to ensure that their students and pupils take part in this competition.
“Registration form for this tournament is free for all schools in this first edition. Its a way of encouraging schools to participate enmasse.
“The students stand to get scholarships while the winning schools will get facilities as rewards. On the whole, we expect that no fewer than fifteen thousand students across the communities and Local Government Areas will take part in the various sports at the preliminary stage and three thousand will qualify for state finals.”
Onyedum further said that winners from the festival would be selected for Team Anambra contingent to National Youth Games and also be part of home grown athletes to the next National Sports Festival in Ogun State.
In his remark, the Anambra State SWAN Chairman, Anthony Oji, commended the Commission for its commitment to reinvent sports in the state.
He described grassroots as the bedrock of sustainable sports development regretting that the last school sports festival in the state was held in 2012.
He urged Gov Soludo to fund the sports fiesta and also ensure it succeeded.
Oji added, “We are not impressed with the level of attention sports has received from the governor, we expect him to provide the necessary logistics for this project.
“Sports have been comatose for years in this state, a state known to be number one in the past, but we commend Mr Governor for supporting this initiative. It will help to discover the many budding talents in the state. It is our expectation that this will be sustained.”
Oji however called on the governor to work towards completing the stadium by building the remaining podium with mini shops and offices rather than building an amusement park as suggested.
“The stadium already has a standard pitch used by clubs. The best next tjing to do is to complete the other side of the podium, build offices and shops underneath for commercial use, then put up a good gate where gate fee will ve taken. That way, more IGR would be generated. It is rather unfortunate that the error on the tartan tracks was only after the contractor had gone”, SWAN Chairman stated.