By Sab Osuji
Patrick Estate Onyedum, Chairman of Anambra State Sports Development Commission, ANSSDC, has spoken of his confidence that young athletes discovered during the 2023 Anambra State Schools Sports Festival would surprise Nigerians at the Natiinal Youth Games billed for September this year in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Exclusivenews.com.ng reports.
Onyedum, himself a former athlete, spoke Thursday at the opening ceremony of the Anambra State Schools Sports Festival and unveiling of the festival’s Logo at Government House, Awka.
“We’re confident that at the end of this sports festival, we would have raised a generation of young athletes that would surprise the country at at the 2023 National Youth Games scheduled for September and by extension at the 2024 National Sports Festival slated for Ogun State”, Onyedum said.
Schools Sports Festival is returning back into the schedule of the state government and calendar of the state for the first time in 11 years.
The event had been put into the deep freezer by successive administration’s in the state, leading to the state taking a painful ‘back seat’ in the National sporting arena.
But Onyedum would pay huge tribute to the present Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo administration for bring out the schools sports files and dusting it clean to give the executive backing for the pupils and students to get back into the field as ‘all learning and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.
“Let me start by thanking Mr Governor, Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo (Odenigbo Aguata) CFR, for graciously approving this Festival which is the first schools sports festival in Anambra State after more than 10 years”, the ANSSDC boss pointed out.
In 2018, Anambra State House of Assembly enacted a Bill spliting the former Ministry of Youth and Sports into Sports Development Commission and Ministry of Youth Development.
Despite the separation, the two still pull strings together to ensure that youths of the state, starting from primary and secondary schools, are given the platform to discover and horn their sporting talents for themselves, their families, state and nation at large.
“We (ANSSDC) are doing this (organising the schools sports festival) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Government Affairs.
“And I want to thank the Commissioners in charge of these two Ministries for their good cooperation”, a visibly delighted Onyedum said before disclosing that no fewer than 610 Primary and Secondary schools have completed their registration formalities to participate Festival.
Apparently toeing the path of ‘catching them young’, Onyedum revealed that the program was first in its desire to relaunch the state back on top of the nation’s sports map.
“This grassroot program is borne out of our desire to take Anambra State back to its days of glory in sports when we produced national champions in different sporting events including the Christ the King College, CKC, Onitsha, 1977 football team that won the World Academicals Cup in Dublin”, he recalled.
He recalled the ‘giant’ strides of the Soludo administration within its short period in office so far.
Onyedum disclosed that within the eight (8) months he had steered the,ship of the Sports Commission, the state has participated in a number of national sports meets, including but not limited to the 2022 National Sports Festival in Delta State.
“That was barely four weeks that,I assumed office and His Excellency graciously approved and released money for our participation in the Delta 2022 National Sports Festival”, he pleasantly recalled.
Team Anambra did not disappoint at the Sports fiesta in Asaba, where they won six (6) gold, nine (9) silver and 24 (24) bronze medals.
“That was not all. Team Anambra also participated in the National Athletics Championship held in Ogun State; AFN U18 All Comers Trials and 2nd Trata Base Karate Championship held in Bayelsa.
“All these events took place this year, 2023, where Anambra State won four (4) gold and four (4) silver medals to finish second behind Abuja”.
He made case for the athletes to be accorded state reception and the usual ‘Executive Handshake’.
“I’m glad to inform Mr Governor that the performances of our Team Anambra athletes at the competitions were so impressive and that these Sports Ambassadors are still awaiting the “Solution Welcome’ and ‘Handshake’.
“As a matter of fact, Goodluck Fiaku Ezechukwuchiri who emerged third in the High Jump at the African Junior Athletics Championship earlier this month is here.
“We’ve listed 30 young athletes in different sporting events for monthly training support but for lack of resources we’ve managed to place only six of them on a monthly stipend of only N20, 000.
“This money is not a meal ticket; it’s tied to performance and is subject to review every year”.
Describing Anambra as ‘home of sports’, Onyedu hinted that the Sports Commission is determined to carry out programs that would help in the realisation of the Solution Agenda for sports.
He reitterated the Sports Commission’s determination to make Anambra the number one talent hunt destination for national and international scouts in different sporting events.
“We’ll not only use sports as a tool for empowering the youth. We’ll also use it as a grassroots mobilise to create awareness on the exploits of ‘Solution Administration’ and galvanise support for it.
“It’s worthy of note that the Sports Commission has entered into agreements with with institutions of learning in Europe and America which offer scholarships to talented student”, Onyedum informed Governor Soludo who was represented on the occasion by Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, Commissioner for Local Government, Chieftancy and Community Affairs