Sports is gradually declining in Nigeria going by the country’s inability to fast track talented youths to replace ageing stars, former Nigerian and African top table tennis player, Segun Toriola has said.
According to the France based professional player, the often tepid performance of Nigerian teams in multi sports international competitions and poor standard of the ongoing 19th National Sports Festival are indications that Nigeria needs to buckle up and improve significantly in all areas to reclaim the lost glory in sports.
Speaking in an interview with Blueprint at the ongoing National Sports Festival, where he defeated Ahiniyi Ganiyu of Bayelsa state to win gold medal for Akwa Ibom state in the table tennis men singles, Toriola said there is need for more training programmes and competitions across all sports to nurture potential talents in the country.
“Nigeria sports is going down gradually. Before, the National Sports Festival used to be an avenue to discover lots of new talents in all sports but with this festival, there is no way as many athletes can be discovered as expected.
“National Sports Festival is a means of discovering new talents, the Federal Ministry of Sports needs athletes to represent Nigeria in international competitions, but I have seen only few potential athletes that can be very good player at the next Nigerian Championships.”
Speaking about his observation of table tennis potentials at the Festival, Toriola said, “there are national junior players who are doing well. Some players from FCT, some also from Rivers state they are here to prove their mettle and to win medals. There is more potential in the male game than that of the females.
“The male table tennis players are improving more and faster than the female players. The Nigerian Table Tennis Federation is trying to improve the game by improving the athletes, but the state associations are not doing enough, only few of them are active. The state associations need to do more to develop the game the way they used to do.
“The Nigeria Table Tennis Federation needs funds to organise local training, national and international championships. There needs to be a programme that would bring the athletes together periodically, as is done abroad, for them to train and compete against each other to bring the best out of them.”