Nigeria’s team celebrate winnning the women’s 4x400m relay of the African Athletics Championships at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State in midwestern Nigeria, on August 5, 2018. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP
Defending champions, Team Delta is doing everything possible to defend the National Youth Games (NYG) title in Ilorin, Kwara State next month.Delta won the last three editions of the Games, including the 2017 edition, where the state garnered 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze medals to beat Team Akwa Ibom and Ondo State to second and third place respectively.
With the newly completed Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, athletes and officials of Delta State are sounding optimistic of winning the fourth edition of the NYG, which will hold in Ilorin from September 7 to 17.
Some of the officials, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, said despite not securing enough tickets from the just concluded South-South zonal elimination for team sports in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Team Delta had what it takes to retain the title.
The Guardian recalls that Team Delta could only secure three tickets at the zonal elimination in Uyo, a performance an official blamed on tricks by the host, Akwa Ibom, to reduce the strength of Delta State contingent for the NYG in Ilorin.
One of the officials claimed in a chat with The Guardian that the South-south zonal coordinator hailed from Akwa Ibom State, adding that he did so many things to work against Team Delta during the zonal elimination in Uyo.
“The South-south zonal coordinator is from this state (Akwa Ibom), and he actually worked against us, though he pretended to be supporting Team Delta. First, he fixed the screening of athletes on the day of arrival, knowing full well that Delta is the only state in the zone that is far away. Edo State did not show up. Even when we informed him that our contingent was on the way to Uyo, the zonal coordinator went ahead with the screening of other states, and by the time we arrived, the screening was over.
“The next day, he was very hard on Team Delta by screening out a majority of our key athletes. In football, for instance, he reduced our team from 18 players to just nine. The two goalkeepers were screened out. So, it became difficult for our team to match others. He did that for Akwa Ibom State to beat us at the NYG in Ilorin, but it won’t happen,” the official stated.
One of the coaches in Delta State’s athletics team told The Guardian yesterday that they would make up for whatever they lost at the South-south zonal elimination by clearing all available medals in track and field events.
“We are always the state to beat in the sprints, short distance, jump and throw events. We are doing everything possible to maintain our stances in that area. We will hit Ilorin with the youngest squad and win the Games. We have young weightlifters, wrestlers, boxers and swimmers who can deliver in Ilorin,” the official stated.For the first time, the NYG in Ilorin will feature all para-Sports events to enable the sports ministry identify talents in para-sports for international championships.