Athletes lament as FG postpones sports festival again

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Kelvin Ekerete

Athletes have voiced their frustrations at the latest postponement of the National Sports Festival tagged Edo 2020 to April 2021, which was earlier scheduled for February 14 to 28 in Benin City.

The decision was reached after Monday’s emergency meeting of the National Council on Sports convened by the sports minister, Sunday Dare, who is also the chairman of the council.

According to a statement from the sports ministry, the postponement was occasioned by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and paucity of funds.

In attendance were state sports commissioners, Directors of Sports, permanent secretaries and the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu.

It is the third time the biannual multi-sports event will be postponed after being moved from its original March 2020 date to December 2020, and February 2021 before being postponed again to April, on Monday.

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The Edo State Government in January had indicated that facilities to host a successful festival were ready, but lacked funds to host the event.

The frequent postponements have left athletes, who spoke with our correspondent, disappointed. Some stated that they’ll have to return home from camp, after spending a lot of money to get themselves back in shape.

Ibrahim Oseni, a 2018 para powerlifting medalist at the 2018 edition of the event in Abuja, said, “This is really disappointing because Lagos athletes had resumed camping. We trained thrice a day to get in shape, only to be told that the festival had been postponed again. This is really discouraging, the ministry of sports and the host state need to act in the interest of the athletes.”

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Boxer Afeez Osoba, who represents Lagos State, added, “I can’t imagine that the festival was postponed with just a few days to the opening ceremony. We are not even sure the new date will stand. This is taking a toll on the athletes who have spent time and the little money they have preparing for the festival.”

Para powerlifting, Esther Nworgu, said she might consider quitting following the latest shift in date.

“I’m speechless at the moment. I’m even considering quitting the sport due to the constant postponements. I’m tired but the only thing I can do is keep on training because our Paralympics preparations start around March.

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“We’ve been told April, but there’s still no date to it. I think it might not hold again this year. I’m disappointed.”

Another Lagos athlete Yahaya Owolabi stated, “I was training when I heard the news. All the athletes are demoralised. We’ve been trying to prepare for this same competition for over two years. It’s saddening.”

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