Golf would have been one of the sports to feature at the forthcoming National Sports Festival if the host city, Abuja had included it in the programme, the Ministry of Sports explained yesterday.
The decision to exclude golf from the festival has elicited condemnation from stakeholders in the sport, who argue that dropping it from such a major competition would not aid its appeal to the youths of the country.
But Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Sports Minister, Nneka Anibeze told The Guardian yesterday that golf was excluded from the competition by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, which will host the competition in December.
She added, “Each host state or city is expected to provide for 20 compulsory sports of which golf is not among. The host then has the choice of adding five other sports, which it has comparative advantage and in the case of the FCT, they did not choose golf.
“Scrabble and some other events have been crying foul because they were not chosen for the festival, but we have no hand in the decision.” Golf, which debuted at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, had in recent times been among the top sports in the National Sports Festival. It will feature in this year’s Youth Olympic Games in Argentina, where Georgia Oboh is flying Nigeria’s flag. And so, the stakeholders see its exclusion as a huge setback for the sport.
According to the winner of 2017 Governor’s Cup in Jos, Martin Odoh, excluding golf from such a developmental event as the National Sports Festival, which provides avenue for raw talents to be discovered for the country, is not good.“I feel most disappointed that golf has been removed from the next sport festival; golf has always featured in the previous sports festivals, what has changed that it should be removed now.
“Although some of the major reasons for the National Sport Festival is for peace and unity of the country; an atmosphere to create friendship, it also helps in the discovery of talents for the nation and improving sporting facilities,” he explained.
To NGF Director of Youth and Women Development, Emy Ekong, excluding golf from the festival could discourage the youths from taking to the sport.She said, “The National Sport Festival apart from uniting Nigerians in a friendly atmosphere is also a fertile avenue to discover budding athletes.
“This is the reason I am sad that golf has been removed from the 2018 Sport Festival… we have teenagers and youths who are already doing very well in golf at the local and international levels – they have also represented the country and won laurels.“The opportunities the Sport Festival provides may turn a daydream for the players if something urgent is not done. Some of the players are under the employment of the states and if they are not participating in Sport Festivals, then they are redundant and that means they could lose their job.”