Athletes fear another festival postponement after Obaseki comments

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‘Tosin Oluwalowo

Athletes have expressed fears the National Sports Festival may be postponed again, after Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki said the state lacked funds to host the Games.

The sports festival was first scheduled for March 22 to April 2, 2020 in Benin City, but was cancelled following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

It had been rescheduled to hold from February 14 to 21, before Obaseki stated that the state lacked the funds to host the national sports event.

While receiving members of the Main Organising Committee from the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Local Organising Committee, who paid him a courtesy visit in Benin City on Tuesday, Obaseki said COVID-19 had taken its toll on the finances of the state.

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Some athletes, who spoke with our correspondent on Wednesday, said shifting the festival again would leave them disappointed.

“The Governor saying this now will weigh athletes down,” sprinter Amarachukwu Obi told The PUNCH.

“We don’t really know which one to prepare for, the festival or the Olympics.”

Enoch Adegoke added, “No one wants a competition to be cancelled when you have already prepared for it. It is something we have been preparing for and it has been postponed many times. If it’s postponed again, I am not sure anyone will be happy.

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“So, they should help us by finding a solution to it, probably with the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development providing intervention funds.”

However, Ondo State badminton player, Alex Fapounda, says the many postponements the festival has suffered has not affected his preparation for the event.

“We have been weighed down hearing this, but our coach has always told us that whatever the case, we should not give up.

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“So, in the midst of all the postponement, we’ve been preparing and getting ourselves ready. Even if they postpone the festival again, we are fully ready when they decide to hold it,” he told The PUNCH.

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