We commend the organisers of the 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) which was concluded in Abuja on Sunday, December 16. It is also cheering that the sports festival held after several postponements. One of the highlights of the 19th NSF is that it featured 37 sports with over 10,000 athletes and officials from 34 participating states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). It is, indeed, an improvement on the last edition of the fiesta that featured 25 sports. At the end of the event which lasted for 10 days, Delta State retained its first position with an impressive haul of 352 medals; consisting of 163 gold, 88 silver and 101 bronze.
Rivers State came second with 69 gold, 58 silver and 57 bronze medals while Edo State emerged third with 47 gold, 41 silver and 53 bronze medals. Lagos State finished 4th with 36 gold, 37 silver and 73 bronze medals. Seven states, namely Borno, Gombe, Zamfara, Ekiti, Taraba, Adamawa and Sokoto, did not win any gold medal while Ebonyi and Katsina states did not send any athletes to the sports festival.
The last NSF held in 2012 when Lagos State hosted it. It is laudable that the Federal government has resuscitated the NSF. The NSF used to be a training ground for budding sports men and women. New sporting talents are usually discovered during such sporting events. The nation’s inability to organise the NSF in the past couple of years has contributed to our plummeting fortunes on continental and global sports events. We hope that the successful hosting of the just ended NSF would mark a new dawn and the return of sports to its pride of place in our national affairs.
Perhaps, the Sports Minister, Mr. Solomon Dalung, was aware of this fact when he announced that following the inability of Cross River, the former host state to deliver on its commitment to the NSF, the Federal government had to take it over following a resolution of the National Sports Council (NSC). To ensure a successful sports festival, they engaged the services of Greenfields Assets Limited to undertake the repackaging and rebranding of the NSF for the next five editions. A permanent logo which would remain as an identity of the games has been designed and approved.
The new government’s interest in the sports festival is commendable. Without doubt, sports can be used for national mobilisation and youth empowerment. At a time of dire economic challenges as we have now, the role of sports in galvanizing the youths cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, the importance of sports in national development should not be underrated by any administration.
It is interesting that new talents were discovered during the sports festival. Government must ensure that they would be groomed for future sporting events for the states they represent and the nation. No doubt, the participation of national and international athletes in the fiesta would have boosted the morale of the local athletes at the games.
Edo State has been named as the host of the 2020 games and we believe that the state is well-equipped to host the sports festival. Good enough, Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, has promised that everything would be done to ensure that the state will not only host the best NSF ever, but also emerge winner at the end of the festival. We believe that the other 35 states would take up the challenge, too, and do well at Edo 2020. We call on the states that did not feature in the 19th NSF to endeavour to be at Edo 2010. To all the competing states, the preparations for the games should start now. This is the only way to guarantee a good outing at the national sports festival.