By Victor Okoye
Gbenga Elegbeleye, former Director-General of the National Sports Commission (NSC), has called for investments on grassroots development of ‘lesser sports’ in the country.
Elegbeleye made this call in a chat with the News Agency of Nigeria at the just concluded 2021 IBB Junior Golf Open Championship held at the IBB International Golf and Country Club, Abuja.
He said he was impressed with the performance of the young discovered talents.
Elegbeleye added that the country must not continue to focus only on football alone, adding that it had become too popular to the detriment of other lucrative sports which are being ignored.
“We don’t invest in facilities and encourage our young stars to get involved in sports like golf and other ‘lesser sports’.
“But the key factor to winning medals, for instance at the Olympics, is the provision of good sporting facilities.
“So, I implore the National Assembly to look at legislation that will encourage and promote other sports.
“Most importantly, getting government to invest in facilities that will promote other sports,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Championships, which was the 13th edition, saw Godwin Okoko of St. Mark Golf Academy, Otukpo, emerge as the overall gross winner.
Okoko posted a score of 75, 76 and 75 respectively, with a total gross of 226 and a10 over course par for a period of three days.
The feat by the 16-year old, included two eagles and 13 birdies over 54 holes to finish with a whopping seven stroke lead in the male Category One for players aged between 16 years and 18 years
In a similar vein, Iyene Essien of the IBB Golf and Country Club, Abuja, emerged the overall best in the female Category One for players aged 16 to 18 years, with a best gross of 254.
“I was quite impressed with what I witnessed at the just concluded junior golf championship.
“We were in Botswana in 2014 for the Africa Youth Games and we had to go looking for a Nigerian young star playing golf in the U. S.
“But, now I am glad that we don’t need to look further for stars who can represent this country in African championships.
“I can confidently tell you that from what I watched in the past few days those kids are future champions and I am certain that there are going to be professional golfers amongst them.
“Also, when it comes to competitive golfing, I am sure they will represent Nigeria at the world stage, including the Olympics,” he said.
Elegbeleye also cited bad leadership as another major problem faced by the country.
“We could have performed better than what we did in Tokyo, but it is unfortunate that some sports officials kind of sabotaged the team’s preparation.
“For instance, why should a big sporting giant like Puma be talking about withdrawing their sponsorship deal with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN)?
”All these issues are the questions that we need to ask and find out from those concerned.
“Indeed, if we must move forward in this country, we must be sincere with our system and know that we need to sit up and get things to begin to work rather than look for avenues where we can benefit from the system.
“How can we contribute to make the system better so that Nigeria and Nigerians can smile in sporting competitions, that is what we need. We don’t want leaders coming into the system and looking for what they can gain.
“These are not what matters at the end of the day, but rather the legacy we leave behind for those administrators coming after us to have a foundation to build on,” he said.
The former NSC DG commended the Ladies section of the IBB International Golf and Country Club under the Lady Captain, MaryRose Richard-Obioha, for their effort in grassroots sports development.
“I believe there is still a great deal of work to be done and we need to encourage the young stars at home by engaging in grassroots sports development.
“The younger you are when you start learning the better you assimilate the knowledge and techniques of the sports and go ahead to win medals and laurels for the country.
“So, we should encourage our youngsters to get involved in competitions at various stages just like what the Ladies section of the IBB Golf Club is currently doing and the country will be better for it,” he said.
Elegbeleye added that the country had good laws which could encourage multinationals to promote sports as part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) noting that these laws were not been enforced by those concerned. (NAN)