Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Okala Laments Poaching of Athletes

A veteran of the National Sports Festival, Emmanuel Okala, said on Friday that there had been a lot of improvements in the standards of the Games since it began some 39 years ago.

Okala, who was a gold medallist in the football event at inception in its 1973 and 1975 editions, made the assertion during an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Awka.

He said the Games had been performing the dual functions of unifying the nation and discovering young talents.

The ace Green Eagles goal tender regretted that most governors in recent times were not giving athletes the encouragement they enjoyed in their time.

He said that was the reason why the athletes had not been giving their best in the various events.

"There has been a lot improvement in the Games over time and the organisers are doing their best because what we are witnessing today were not there during our days.

"The 17th edition of the festival in Port Harcourt in 2011, tagged "Garden City Games," was spectacular and I hope Lagos will be much better.

"The most important aspect of the festival is the discovery of fresh talents, as well as its relevance as a unifying agent.

"There is need for some governors to give all forms of support to these young lads in terms of finance for their allowances and training, and with their moral and physical presence.

"I pray and beg the governors who have not been doing that to start to encourage the athletes," Okala said.

He said that he would not blame the athletes for their poor attitude to the Games because the problem was with the states where they came from.

Okala added that some of the present-day governors were not as interested in sports as the governors of their time.

The 1980 Africa Cup of Nations gold medallist called for an outright ban on the situation where athletes were allowed to compete for more than one state at the Games.

Okala noted that the practice was not in the best interest of the growth of the sports festival.

"There is need to stop the movement of these athletes from one state to another.

"A situation where an athlete competes for Enugu State in 2012 and in the next Games for Anambra should be stopped because it does not encourage the fiesta's growth," he added.

NAN

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