Why Team Cross River had a poor outing at the 19th National Sports Festival —by Eugene Upah

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19 December 2018

The Cross River contingent to the 19th National Sports Festival (NSF) did so much publicity whilst leaving for Abuja, venue of the competition but returned back unannounced like midnight visitors. Reason is because the state delegation suffered an unusual defeat at the hands of sister teams that used to be weak contenders.

Sports is the one sector where CRS outshines many other states to be Nigeria's model in the game. At the 18th edition of the NSF hosted in Lagos in 2012, CRS placed 8th position with very little preparation time, how come the team finished a distant 16th position this year with only 5 token gold as against Delta with 163, and Rivers with 69 after 6 whole years of preparation? Is this how the management would have embarrassed the state if it had hosted the NSF it bade for, and won the hosting right since 2012? Poor sports administration, poor remuneration/welfare package for our sportsmen, an imbalance between the Mgt, Coaches & Organising Secretaries and the governor trusting sports into the hands of politicians with very little or no expertise in sports administration/management is the bane of the whole problems bedeviling sports in CRS.

Sports, like the health sector is one very sensitive area that must be well thought out, articulately structured, and the schedules well mapped out to enable athletes compete for laurels at the schools sports, youth games and elite levels. Athletes must be pampered to give their personal interest and involvement to make every challenge a success. The CRS 2018 NSF ranking is the worst in recent time and this should worry the government, the Cross River people, those at the helm of affairs and every veteran sports lover. No one goes into a contest haphazardly prepared and expects a victory. The team did her best, the athletes gave their all but poor organisation, welfare, level of preparedness and bureaucracy is the main reason for this year's abysmal performance. How could the state allow Melody Bassey; one of Nigeria's finest and most wanted Pole Vaulter and Decathlon athlete walk away? How about Shedrack Akpeki, a 400m runner who's one of the most sought athlete? Mercy Ntiaobong, one of the best in her age category, Dorcas Onoja, a Boxer amongst others.

Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Rivers & Lagos used to dominate Nigeria's short and longs sprints. No state dare come close to Cross River in swimming and marathon. While l congratulate the state athletes for the courage to face states prepared by professional technocrats from the sporting world, l call on the government to revisit the issues of athlete's welfare, and also re-organize or overhaul the management of sports in CRS.