The Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung has expressed dismay over the recent position of the leadership of the National body of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) to fault his position on the achievements of Team Nigeria at the XXI Commonwealth Games.
Dalung said the statement issued by its secretary, Wale Alabi on behalf of SWAN President, Honor Sirawoo was a cheap attempt at underplaying Team Nigeria’s noble outing at the just concluded games where they won 9 gold, 9 silver and 6 bronze medals.
“Let it be on record that we recorded enviable records at the XXI Commonwealth Games. We set a new World record in Powerlifting and we participated in Rhythmic Gymnastics for the first time. This is besides personal and season’s best records set by our worthy ambassadors.
“It is also on record that athletes were in various training camps for 5 months before proceeding for the games. Camp allowances, daily allowances during the games and winning bonuses of $5,000, $3,000 and $2000 were paid for the first time to athletes immediately after they won medals”.
Dalung described the statement as a personal opinion going by the positive media reviews after the games.
He stressed that preparation for a competition of that magnitude was more than gathering people in a closed environment for a particular duration in the name of camping as preparation for Commonwealth Games or Olympics is a long term process.
“I thought the leadership of SWAN would have known that close camping of athletes cannot be more than 5 months at a stretch since most of these athletes are students in various schools across the world. Preparation includes personal training regimen of individual athletes and most importantly regular participation in competitions.”
For the leadership of SWAN to have faulted Federal Government’s efforts after having athletes in specialised camps in Abuja, Bayelsa, Lagos and Port Harcourt since November, 2017 for the Games, is not just unfortunate but a cheap attempt at ridiculing government’s effort”, Dalung continued.
The Minister maintained that any serious sports nation cannot afford to depend on the annual fiscal budget to prepare for international competitions such as the Olympics, World Cup, Commonwealth Games or the All Africa Games.
“We will always come back to complain about our preparation and performances after every major competition because of the way we handle sports funding in Nigeria.
“Preparation for sporting events of this magnitude takes long term preparation and investment which the budgetary allocation cannot handle.”
Dalung said there is need for SWAN to to be actively involved while carrying out its duties as the watch dog of the society.
“Rather than wait till after every competition to criticize and complain about preparation and performances of athletes, I think SWAN should come out as a body to pressurise the National Assembly to legislate for a special funding for sports.”
The Minister maintained his earlier assertion about the better performance of Team Nigeria at the 2018 Commonwealth Games compared to Glasgow.
“In 2014 we went to Glasgow with 116 athletes in 7 individual sports while in 2018 we participated with just 67 athletes in 10 sports including basketball which accounted for 12 players.
“At the 2014 games, many of our athletes were at their peak but if you check the average age of the 67 athletes at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, we paraded young athletes who were making their debuts at that level and will form the crux of the future team.
“The Commonwealth is not just about winning medals, but also about participation, building networks and friendship across the globe and preparing for the next generation of athletes for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“If Nigeria placed 9th out of 71 Commonwealth nations which took part in the games, we should roll out the carpets for our athletes instead of condemning them”.
Dalung advised the leadership of the association to channel its energy into ensuring that the right things are done rather than being in a haste to criticize the federal government for personal reasons.