Prof. Edigba Agbo, the Technical Director, Nigerian Hockey Federation on Friday said Nigeria will be ready to compete favourably with the best in the world at the 2020 Olympics.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 2020 Summer Olympics, is expected to hold in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9.
Agbo who spoke to NAN in an interview on the sidelines of the ongoing Nigeria Hockey Super League in Abuja on Friday said he was impressed with the quality of the teams participating at the ongoing tournament.
He said that with the teams’ level and quality of play, he was confident that the future was bright for the game in the country.
“Let me start by saying, we are operating the tournament on a very low budget as we have really been strapped for cash.
“Outside the budgeting problem, I am really happy that we had the tournament because, for one thing the skill levels this year have surpassed that of last year, but that is not even my joy.
“My greatest fulfillment is that the age of the teams is dropping as there are so many younger stars demonstrating extremely brilliant talents.
“So, they are giving us hope that in the next two to three years we would have finished overhauling our national team and injected a lot of young blood into the team.
“The skill levels that are coming up are much higher than the ones that are going out, so we believe that give or take by the year 2020 we should be up there competing with South Africa,’’ he said.
He noted that the country’s ranking was not really impressive at the moment as it had dropped significantly from what it used to be in the past.
“In November last year at the Nations Cup held in Egypt, our women came third after defeating Namibia in the third/fourth place play offs.
“However, in terms of ranking, the International Hockey Federation ranks us fourth behind South Africa, Ghana and Kenya.
“For the men, we are number five embarrassingly because we used to be up there in both the men and women category; it used to be South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria.
“The lack of resources to train our teams made them begin to go down, but we are optimistic that we are going to grow our team” he said.
The technical director called on corporate organisations to help in the sponsorship of the federation’s programmes as it would help to empower the youth and make argument for the reduction of their tax by government.
“Hockey is not an attractive sport to corporate bodies, so when we want to talk to them, they usually are not willing to listen to us.
“We have most of the times through our own personal sourcing, run our programs, and this year’s Super League was not an exception.
“We would really be happy to have corporate bodies partner with us to develop Nigerian hockey.
“If they feel that they can partner with us and give us the resources, they are at liberty to put in their monitoring systems and conditions to evaluate what we are doing.
“If they are not satisfied at the end of the day, they are free to pull out, but they need to give us a try,’’ he said.