By Mmaduabuchi Onwumelu
The Executive Governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, has declared open the School Sports Festival in Awka, the Anambra State capital.
Declaring the event open at the SSG Conference Hall, Government House, Awka, Governor Soludo said he was more than committed towards ensuring that sports in the state was given a facelift, noting that the festival would serve as an opportunity for gifted individuals to showcase their talents.
‘I charge you all to go all out and make your different schools proud. Be focused. We have provided the enabling environment for all of you. With dedication, good conduct and hard work, you’ll succeed,’ Soludo charged them.
The Governor who was represented by the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon TonyCollins Nwabunwanne, tasked the participants on proper conduct and to shun acts capable of bringing their school to disrepute.
In his address of welcome, the Chairman of Anambra State Sports Commission, Hon Patrick Estate Onyedum, paid a glowing tribute to the Governor for the confidence repose in him and his team, noting that a lot had changed ever since he took over the Commission.
His words, ‘I welcome you to this press conference and official opening ceremony of the First Solution School Sports Festival for Primary and Secondary schools in both the public and private sectors.
‘Let me start by thanking Mr. Governor, Prof. Charles Chukwuma Soludo, for graciously approving this festival which is the first School Sports Festival in Anambra State after more than 10 years.
‘This festival is organized by Anambra State Sports Development Commission, the Sports Management Agency of the government signed into law in 2018 by the Anambra State House of Assembly and domiciled in the Office of the Executive Governor.
‘We are doing this in collaboration with the Ministries of Education and Local Government Affairs I want to thank the Commissioners in charge of these two ministries for their good cooperation.
‘Mr Governor Sir, at the close of registration, a total of 610 schools, including primary and secondary schools across the 21 local government areas of Anambra, enrolled to participate in this festival.
‘This grassroots Development Programme is borne out of our desire to take Anambra State back to its days of glory in sports when we produced national champions in different sporting events, including the CKC 1977 Team that won the world Academicals in Dublin.
‘We are confident that at the end of this tournament, we would have raised a generation of young athletes that would surprise the country at the National Youth Games scheduled for September this year and by extension at the National Sports Festival scheduled for Ogun State next year.
‘Within the eight-month life of this management team, Anambra has taken part in a number of national sports competitions, including the National Sports Festival in Delta State last year where we won six gold, nine silver and 24 bronze medals.
‘Mr Governor released money for just one month after my appointment as chairman of the Sports Commission.
‘We participated at the National School Athletics championship in Ogun State; Athletics Federation of Nigeria U18 All Comers Trials and 2nd Strata Base National Karate Championship held in Bayelsa, all this year where Anambra State won four gold and four silver to emerge second in the entire country behind Abuja.
‘I am glad to announce to Mr Governor that the performances of our team at these competitions were impressive and that these sports ambassadors are still awaiting the Solution Welcome and Handshake.
‘As a matter of fact, Goodluck Fiaku Ezechukwuchiri, who emerged third in the high jump event at the African Junior Athletics Championship early this month is here.
‘Meanwhile, we have listed 30 young athletes in different sporting events for monthly training support but for lack of resources we have managed to place only six of them on a monthly stipend of N20,000. This money is not a meal ticket; it is tied to performance and is subject to review every year,
‘Mr Governor, ladies and gentlemen, Anambra is home of sports and the Commission is determined to carry out programmes that would help in the realisation of the Solution Agenda for sports.
‘We will not only use sports as a tool for empowering the youth, we will use it as a grassroots mobiliser to create awareness on the exploits of the Solution Administration and galvanize support for it.
‘In line with the Solution Agenda of Mr Governor, we are determined to make Anambra the number one talent hunt destination for national and international scouts in different sporting events.
‘Let me inform Mr Governor that the Sports Commission has entered into agreement with institutions of higher learning in Europe and America which offer scholarships to talented students.
‘School Sports Festivals provide a veritable platform for identification and nurturing of potential beneficiaries of that opportunity. I assure you that in no distant time, Anambra children will start to find their way to studying abroad through sports sponsorship.
‘Mr Governor, these students before you are happy for the opportunity you have given them to explore their sporting talents while pursuing their educational career.
‘The festival is designed to touch every community. That is why we started the preliminaries at the community level; schools that win at this stage will compete to emerge as their local government representatives where they will in turn compete at the Senatorial District levels,’ he said.
Onyedum informed the Governor that the finalists would then proceed to the state finals which, he said, would take place in different venues between June 21 and June 24 where they would compete for glory for their various schools and local government areas.
‘I want to use this opportunity to once again enjoin our LGA transition Chairmen to support their teams to the best of their abilities to enable them to give their best and emerge champions,’ he concluded.