Ahead of Olympic Relay qualifier in United States, Minister of Youth and Sports Mr. Sunday Dare took time out earlier this week to speak to select Journalists on Ministry’s plans for a successful Tokyo Olympic Games.
What was likely missed in Poland will it be gained on this tour to United states of America?
Absolutely! You know qualification is on point like I said. We did everything possible to get to Poland. I’m going to leave what happened off camera but we did everything possible but then when the government says we need two weeks to process visas, then there is nothing you can do. We got visas from the American embassy, two, three, four weeks. We also spoke with the foreign affairs Minister and we got the support we needed, we didn’t reinforce this.
We got the American visa so when another government said you must do two weeks, then there is nothing you can do and that was the most important thing. If we had gotten everything right, and then you get to the embassy and they say two weeks, there is nothing you can do.
Now, we are going to the US because we can have other mates that will place us on the part of qualification. If you also followed the outcome of what happened in Poland, for some of the relays, we have four to five slots left from two now. We had four to five, some we had three, so the chances are brightening. In Poland, about three, four, five countries basically withdrew completely from Poland where are they? Most of them are in the US and are waiting for our team to be able to compete with them. So if you understand the entire ecosystem, this talk about we didn’t go to one relay, oh that is the end of the world, no there are chances. We are going to fight for every available slot to be on the relay team at Olympics.
You talked of the national trials has the date been fixed? Venue and how important is this in terms of the selection of athletes for the olympics ?
Well, I think National trials are so important like you heard. What I said was that any home based or foreign based athlete that does not come for the national trials will not make it for Nigeria.
That’s how important it is. It’s almost the second to the final point in which we finally form our team after that is the African champions. It’s important, even before I became Minister, every athlete knows that the national trials are important that’s where we pick our very best and send them off.
In terms of filers, in terms of signal from the coaches and what the athletes are doing, what message are we getting from the team in terms of podium appearance in Tokyo?
Beyond the noise, if you rise above the noise, if you stay with the facts and details. There is actually a lot of excitement if you also monitor the circuit.
Just recently, Tobi Amosun placed 1st to 5th a week or 10 days ago. She has hit her best form. She’s second best in the world. If you follow very closely Grace Okocha, home best adopted, their records are amazing. Talk of Blessing Okagbare. I’m talking about both foreign based and even home based, they are doing wonderfully well.
If you look at wrestling, number one in the world is a Nigerian in her category. Also number two in the world is a Nigerian, and they’ve maintained that ranking. You look at full package. So we have exciting prospects in wrestling, in athletics… track and field, in taekwondo, gymnastics, look at badminton, from being almost rated by 100 in the world, we are making it to 38 now, so you most stay with the data, not with the noise.
We are focused on the data, we are matching the times, the personal best times.
We see that the gap is not too much, so we are focused on those details and at this point that’s what you focus on, not the noise and that’s why I’m also here. These people have been here for two weeks now, nobody knows we’ve been engaging them, they’ve been training them everyday. Look at them, they are happy, they are doing what they need to do, their coaches are here, we prepare the camp for them. So I think that our athlete know how to rise above the noise, those of us charged with preparing them to represent Nigeria, are focused on the details. We have our eyes on the tip of the sphere. Nigeria will be at the olympics God willingly, these ones I’m confident will bring up their very best and they will do Nigeria Proud.
You see we are doing a normal process and people will want to tell us what to do. The government funds federation. Over 70% of the funding comes but we also have the code of governance, we have constitution, you dig deep and you know.
For me, I’m not distracted, our team and the ministry are not distracted, the athletes here are not distracted, we’ve told them we’ve got your back as the country, we got your back and these people are just focused on their work they are not going to be voted for in any way. So for me, we are going by the code of governance when the time of an executive expires.
I have Directors that have been there for 35 years, several of them have seen several Olympics, several championships, this code of governance rules, practices involved over time. These are people that also advice me because the ministry of sports is also an institution.
So as far as we are concerned, we are focused with no distraction. We will do what is right for our team. In fact, for us our focus now is team Nigeria, building that team, any other thing administratively can go on, for me it’s the success of team Nigeria.
What’s the latest on adopt-an-athlete initiative project?
Well, you know that just before we came up with the adopt-an-athlete initiative, we also did a bit of homework and we found out that most of our athletes are often in dire need of financial support which often come late.
They just manage to pay their way, pay their coaches, pay for their training facilities. We just saw it was a struggle, so we decided to say let’s come up with something, and we came with adopt-an-athlete programme. Lets reach out to organised private sector, individuals that love sports and we have hit a very fantastic rhythm.
Before COVID -19 came, we were on the way to getting 25 adopted, then with COVID 19, so many private individuals had their businesses basically go down, they lost revenue, they had to close down. So we had to re-gig again. We are glad it has picked up, we know that Delta state government adopted about six athletes, and we thank the delta state government. Governor Abiodun of Ogun state adopted our own Tobi Amusan, Edo state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki adopted, both the governor and the deputy governor adopted an athlete each.
As we speak, we are looking at about 14 to 16 athletes adopted. There are three stages in adoption. The ministry talks about the profile and the potentials of the athletes, the individual organiz8ation agrees, then they meet with the athlete and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which has been cleared by our lawyers is given to protect our athletes.
Once it’s signed, the money is sent directly to thie account of the athletes, no athlete can take the money by proxy, so if the account number is not in your name, you don’t get the money. So if you are not at the tour stage, until the money hits your account, the process isn’t complete. So many people on the first page, some on the second stage and we hope that in the next two, three weeks, we can quickly get most of them to the third stage which will be that final when the money hits the account.