C/River Urged to Revive Sports Dev’t Programme Following Poor Showing at NYG Asaba 2023

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Calabar, Cross River – Concerns are growing in Cross River following the state’s disappointing performance at the 2023 National Youth Games (NYG) held in Asaba, Delta State. The state, which was once a dominant force in grassroots sports development, finished a dismal 26th place with just five silver and eight bronze medals and no gold NEGROIDHAVEN has garnered.

Team Delta emerged as the overall winner of the NYG, further underlining its reputation as a powerhouse in Nigerian youth sports. The dominance of Team Delta is attributed to a well-structured sports development programme that has been consistently followed for years.

According to the Vanguard, this development contrasted sharply with Cross River’s performance, which has declined in recent years. During the tenure of former Governor Liyel Imoke, the state was a leader in grassroots sports development, especially under the comprehensive Sports Development programme initiated by Bruce Ijirigho, a former national athlete and Olympic team captain.

Ijirigho, who was contracted by Governor Imoke to establish the programme, emphasised that Imoke provided strong political support, funding, and allowed the team to operate with autonomy. As a result, between December 2009 and October 2015, more than 300,000 young boys and girls participated in the programme.

The State experienced a golden era in youth sports development, winning the National School Sports Festival between 2011 and 2015 and producing athletes who excelled on international stages.

However, in 2015, the programme was discontinued, leading to the decline in the state’s sports performance.

Ijirigho, speaking from the United States, expressed his disappointment in Cross River’s current state of affairs, pointing out that if the comprehensive Sports Development programme had continued, the state would likely be leading in youth sports today.

He appealed to the current leadership of the state to revive the programme, emphasising its positive impact on the state’s image and the development of young athletes.

The onus now falls on Senator Bassey Otu, the current governor of Cross River State, to revive and rebuild the state’s sports dynasty, as advocated by Ijirigho and other concerned stakeholders.