Its barely one month to go ahead of first ever International Taekwondo Open scheduled to take place on the Nigeria soil. Blueprint weekend sports crew caught up with the Technical Director of the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF), Engr. Chika Chukwumerije who shed deeper perspectives on preparations and expectations when over 100 Athletes from across the World berth in Abuja between February 8 and 10, 2019.
Preparations ahead of Nigeria Taekwondo Int’l Open
Countries have started registering. We have athletes from the United States, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroun, already. Athletes from those three countries have registered. And of course, Athletes from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Mali and Niger have also confirmed their attendance. We are currently going through their paper work. Just before you came in, I received a call from two athletes from Ivory Coast who also contacted me that they want to be here for the event.
As I said last year, We are expecting athletes from ten countries, including Nigeria. The logistics of it all is in place, the daedo brand new system has arrived Nigeria. We are in the process of clearing it with the Nigerian Customs service. We have gotten the software required; like the tekno plan which is a requirement for international event and within the next 10 ten days, we are going to procure the video replay system and arrangement has been made for international Referees from across the world (24 of them). They have been sent invitations to come and officiate this event.
It is a lot of work. The federation is ready to host its first ever international event. I want to use this opportunity to speak to the taekwondo community, especially the athletes. We shifted this event because of them, to give them time to get their documentation but we are not happy with the level of participation and we want to encourage the Directors of Sports in the state to support their athletes to register.
All together, everything they need is about $110. The registration fee of $50 is the cheapest in the world. It is something you can verify and it was well negotiated. We asked the world taekwondo to make it cheap because this time, people do not have the resources to spend. So, it is something that the states should take advantage of, if they want to expose their athletes. If you have 10 countries coming in, you want your athletes to come and face those 10 countries.
Frankly, any National athlete who does not attend the Nigeria Open should not expect any support from the federation for any event in any other part of the world. Because if you cannot come for the cheapest event in the world right here in your own country for the first time ever, then you want to write us that you want to go to the US Open, German open, we will not accommodate it.
So, it very necessary that the athletes show some level of solidarity to this event since it is here, and then we will know that you have the capacity to do others.
We are very happy that it is going to be held, at least it is forcing us to step up and by the end of this event, we would have acquired a lot of new gadgets and it means that it would increase the frequency of national tournaments that we hold, because once we have those gadgets, it is meant to be used.
Logistics and other plans
Personally, I look forward to it. All the logistics for the hotel, accommodation, feeding are being put in place and we have reached out to a lot of volunteers.
On 24th, we will be having inaugural meeting with the volunteers. We are welcoming foreigners, so we have to give good account of ourselves. The event has to be well organized and we show ourselves as friendly and homely to give a good impression. And that is what it’s going to be.
Partnership calls and deeper awareness
We want to use this time to thank the media, because the media have been instrumental to the success of Nigerian Taekwondo federation in the past two years. We don’t have a lot of resource but they turn their eyes the other way and focus on the quality of event.
Just as they have always done, we also want to use this medium to ask them to publicise this event. In any way that the media can play a role, we welcome them, to share their ideas with us so that we can have a good event. Any international event in Nigeria is one that affects everybody. If we do an event that embarrasses the country, is the whole country that will be embarrassed and if we do an event that is lauded by the international community, we will will smile with the praises that are sure to come.
So, we are determined to make the country proud like we have always done and of course, we call on the support from the Nigeria Olympic committee reliably led by Engr. Habu Gumel, because this is an Olympic sport.
The ministry has been very supportive because they have approved the venue and the hostel that will be used. We have asked for some buses, maybe some career sport officers can even join any of the committees so that they can bring the experience. We are very happy and contempt with the advice given by the ministry.
The support hasn’t been monetary. The support has been in kind and now it’s going to change. Perhaps, we have not reached out enough. I think as a federation, we are going to do this. We have been using organic growth. You know we have been trying to establish the brand, trying to establish our credentials which we have done. But businesses are in business to make money and to improve. If supporting a project improves public perception of them and make their services more popular, then, they are interested.
Is our duty to make them see why supporting our event can give them this kind of advantage. Again, I call out for support for the NTF. This is certainly one of the most robust, vibrant federations now. NTF is transparent in its operations, accountable after event. So it’s fertile area to invest, especially now that this is a year that we have lined up event leading up to the Olympics.
There are so many areas we can work on, whether it’s grassroots, elite. I think with a sport that has a very high literacy rate, a lot of our practitioners are in school, they speak well, they reason well. We must sell all of these to our potential sponsors because we really need it. We can’t keep leaning on personal sacrifices of people within the federation. We must move it from the personal to the corporate and that is where it’s important to have this partnership with corporate individuals who can key into our programmes.
The import of the Int’l Open
This is a good event to open the year with. It’s not just a good event to say we want to be in on this or that we heard that the NTF always organises colourful and good events. We are using this event to test if we can extend relationship and brighten the prospects of our coaches and Athletes.
Every Practitioner can always contact the secretary general or me via techdirectornigerianteakwadofederation.org .
We can discuss how to make sure this kind of partnership is mutually beneficial to the organization and to the federation.
Level of compliance amidst registration bottlenecks
So far, as at yesterday (Thursday), 34 athletes had registered – 8 Athletes from outside the country and 26 Nigerians. The registration date ends in five days and just like last time, on the last day we had almost 65 entries. So, even last time, before we shifted it, we had about 14 people that registered and on the last day, it just went up to 78. So now, we are even in a good place in terms of the number. You see the number has tripled. Last time it was 14, now it’s 34 and people are still registering. So we expect, there is going to be a flood of registrations, because I was on the phone with Ghana and they’re having loads of meetings. For them, is not if they are coming but how many they are coming with. I was on the phone with Niger republic, it is the same thing.
So, it’s fair to expect about a hundred competitors and all efforts are being made to make sure they come. Probably we are going to have about 20 to 30 foreigners which is a fair number, because the level of competition is going to be very high, so it is very important to make sure that the attendance matches the investment being made.
Level of Practitioners’ involvement
The standing committees NTF has are not just committees for this tournament. They are departments of the federation. I honestly do think that people have to be activated. So, I don’t think that the committee lack what to do, there is a Blueprint but if you want to execute projects, it boils down to the same thing.
They need funds to execute, so I think for the NTF, it is just the financial stability that is the most important thing to sort out. There is no lack of creativity or hard workers, it is just a viable investment and that is it. The investment partner will reap the benefits. I give example; take any of our committees, if I say medical and doping. What do they need to do? Workshops. They need to use workshop to inform, to enlighten young people on the use of drugs and the impact. If I take our committee, they are about investing in young people too. You know, we can do financial workshops for young people too. The Blueprint for each of the committees is already on paper and it’s good to go. It’s something that if an investment partner comes in, he knows exactly where his investment is going to go, what we want to achieve with it, and we will have a steady stream of programme which is equal to steady publicity.
For the Nigerian open, of course the board will come together to make sure the event is very functional. Like the medical and doping, committees, the World Taekwondo federation is flying in their team to come and conduct an in-house testing of athletes. And they are doing this at their own cost.
Logistically, the board members are going to take roles in making sure they spearhead over the logistics of the event – where the referees will stay, where the athletes will stay. On the technical field, we have the head of the technical and development chairman, Alhaji Sani Lawal. They’re going to make sure that equipment are functional and everything needed by the international referees is put in place and all that.
I think we working well together. It boils down to the issue of investment. The more investment partners we have for the event, the more we can do for the event and for people that will come for the event. And this is one thing we are praying will happen.