Olympians Deji Aliu and Falitat Ogunkoya have downplayed the competitiveness of the National Sports Festival following Delta State’s recent dominance of the event, noting that most states are not competing to win, but for the good of the community. stake.
Team Delta have won the last six editions of the festival, and the coast looks clear for this year’s hosts to clinch a seventh straight home title.
As of the 8th (Thursday), Delta had taken an undisputed lead with 369 medals: 194 gold, 116 silver and 59 bronze.
The closest state to Delta, Bayelsa, in second place, is far behind with 189 medals (78 gold, 57 silver and 54 bronze), while Edo, in third place, has 186 medals (38 gold, 51 silver and 97 bronze).
“Most of the states are not ready to compete for the festival, many states are just competing for fun, not to have an impact,” Aliu told The PUNCH.
“Besides Delta State, other states are just there to make up the numbers and that is sad for Nigerian sports.
“Delta is paying more attention to sports than any other state, good facilities and a sports-loving governor who supports sports. The state prepares for the sports festival more than other states, the medal table is proof of that.”
Speaking further, Aliu, a member of the Nigerian men’s 4x100m relay team that won bronze at the 2004 Olympics, said the festival was not as competitive as it used to be during his time.
“No, it was never like that during my days. So, it was hard to predict who wins; the medal chase was intense, each athlete trying to bring their A game to the table, working very hard. No one could just walk in and say they would win. It was very competitive then, but now, it’s just making up numbers.”
Aliu also criticized the timing of the festival and urged other states to invest more in the development of grassroots sport as well as making sport big business and not recreation in Nigeria.
“Delta’s dominance at the sports festival does nothing good for us, the authorities must go back to the drawing board and try to make amends,” he added.
“First, the timing of the sports festival is wrong, looking at the sports calendar. December is not the right time to host a festival, this is like a rest period for athletes. At this time of year, most athletes are done with the year’s activities and are resting in preparation for the coming year.
“The sports ministry needs to come up with a proper plan that works with the athletes, and then also try to talk to other states to invest more in sports development.
“Many state governors see sports as recreational activities, but athletes see it as a career. So we need to motivate the athletes and make it more competitive, or else we will continue to get the results we are getting now.”
Furthermore, Olympic silver and bronze medalist Ogunkoya said: “Delta’s dominance of the festival is not good for Nigerian sports, and this is because they choose the best athletes and coaches for the festival while others state governors pay no attention to sports. .
“In my time the sports party was not like that, we participated in many competitions that prepared us for the party.”