By Mike Oboh
Special Adviser to Akwa Ibom State governor on Sports, Chief Paul Bassey is optimistic that the State will improve on its last performance in the ongoing 19th National Sports Festival holding in Abuja.
Bassey, who described the delay in the hosting of the festival as a sad commentary in the history of the game, said the Sports ministry and the FCT must be commended despite the challenges faced by the participants.
The veteran journalist turned sports administrator said the festival use to be an avenue where youths from across the country converge to be discovered and nurtured to greater height but unfortunately the delay has robbed them of such opportunity.
He said despite the odds, his State was not just participating to add to the numbers but to improve on its seventh position in the last festival.
Bassey who said the State has no regret, bringing in top-rated tennis players, Funke Oshonike and Segun Toriola, whose efforts could not advantaged the State the desired medals as both crashed out in the quarterfinals, said their coming was to add glamour to the festival as well as use them to improve the sport in the State after the festival.
“I am not disappointed in bringing in both Oshonike and Toriola to the festival but it has helped in the coloration of the game, my happiness is that we have youths who are growing.
“I brought them to help improve the game in the State, I am happy that after the festival, they will help develop the talents in Akwa Ibom State,” Bassey said.
The Special Adviser who is also the chairman of Nigeria Premier league side, Akwa United football club, said the State athletes were highly motivated to achieve the set goal in the festival.
Bassey said the State contingent was a mixture of young talents and veterans which he noted was borne out of the desire to create a reservoir of athletes who can excel in the nearest future.
He said in line with the task of changing the narratives in the State, the government has had two youth festivals for all the local government areas in the State to discover new talents who will be nurtured to stardom.
On the need for the festival to regain its lost glory, Bassey said only five States in the country have the capacity to host the festival as at today because of the availability of the needed facilities.
” We can not run away from the systemic problem in the country, is only about five States that can host the festival now, we don’t need to build new structures, that is what Abuja is benefitting from.
” But if they can allow two States to co-host that would have been a good idea but I don’t understand why people are kicking against such beautiful idea,” Bassey said.