GOVERNMENT says it is mindful of the challenges the Zambian youth face in accessing sports facilities and has since called on stakeholders to consider extending the various youth sports development programmes to rural areas.
Sports Deputy Minister Nathaniel Mubukwanu said this at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium during a presentation ceremony for the Royal Norwegian Embassy sponsored football tournament for Ndola-based boys and girls.
The tournament, under the theme 'Sports for Lifestyle Project', was held to coincide with the international friendly match between the Chipolopolo and Norway at the weekend where boys and girls aged between 12 and 15 in Chifubu, Senior, Twapia and Kabushi townships of Ndola.
The event was held in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and local sports NGO, Sport-In-Action (SIA) and kids also received sensitisation on HIV prevention and lifestyles prior to the games.
Mubukwanu said the football tournament should be commended as it helps the youth make use of the power of sport but regretted that youths in rural areas had been left out.
He said UNICEF and SIA should consider extending such programmes to rural areas as such initiatives had a positive impact on the youth.
"Let me urge you the youths, our future athletes, to continue working hard and grow into responsible adults. It is very encouraging to see a number of youths taking part in such programmes but it is our appeal that such programmes be extended to rural areas where it will also have an positive impact," he said.
Mubukwanu said Government realises the important role sports plays in nation building and also the influence it has on athletes as it made them grow into responsible members of society and urged the youths to take sport seriously.
Norway's Minister for International Development Heikki Holmaas said he was encouraged to see a lot of youths taking part in sports activities especially football, and urged them to work hard as sport has many benefits.
Holmaas said the youth should seriously practise the values of sport learnt during the tournament by contributing towards building a responsible society.
Meanwhile, 10-year-old Tisa Banda of Tawipa emerged player-of-the-tournament in the girl's category with Abraham Musonda from Senior Community winning the boys' event.
Ndola FC from Kabushi won the boys' event to walk away with footballs, medals, a trophy and a set of jerseys while Cichetekelo football club from Nkwazi finished second to get a trophy, footballs and medals.