Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola has said that established sportsmen and women should be excluded from the annual National Sports Festival so that it can remain as a grassroots sporting programme for the development of new talents stressing that by so doing, the nation would always have a pool of talents to draw from when the old ones retire.
Fashola, who spoke at the end of the 5th Edition of the Governor’s Belt at the Mobolaji Johnson Sports Centre in Yaba, also appealed to the State’s Boxing Association to organize enlightenment programmes to educate boxers, boxing spectators and the media on the new rules and regulations of the game.
Addressing a mixed audience of boxing enthusiasts, government functionaries, local and foreign dignitaries, traditional rulers and school pupils, Fashola expressed delight at the large number of talents discovered through the various grassroots sporting events organized by the state saying that the same could be true at the national level if the festival could be so retained.
“This is why I have always insisted that the National Sports Festival should be retained as a grassroots sporting event where we can discover and develop new talents instead of an open event where only already developed talents participate. It will ensure that we will always have a pool of talents for any competition at any time”, he said.
The Governor said the enlightenment programmes have become expedient as a result of the fast changes going on in the game and the need for both boxers and spectators to be conversant with the new rules.
“Apart from training for our boxers, our judges and our referees, I think we also have to hold seminars for our spectators. Spectators must be conversant with the new rules, the way the points are being counted today“, adding that there was also need to include the media in the seminars.
Pointing out that there is need for boxers to understand that it is not about the killer punch but about actually scoring points. The governor explained that the seminars would also enable the media to understand that they must not use flash when a boxing match is going on since the light impairs the sight and vision of the boxers”.
“So, there is a lot for us to learn. I want to learn about the rules that have changed. Things are changing very quickly and we need these seminars, may be once a quarter or twice a year where those who know about the changes can inform and enlighten the spectators, the press, the boxers, the judges and all the participants about what has changed”, adding that no one could get at the top of any game without mastering the rules.
Expressing delight that the competition has grown so large from a humble beginning five years ago, the governor implored the new generation of boxers not to relax or rest on their oars but to continue to aspire to higher heights adding that as the years go by, competition would get tougher both from within and outside the State.
“Every year I see something new and this year has been no exception. There are more sponsors, the excitement is bigger, the participation is better, and I notice particularly that it is no longer a Lagos State affair. We now have our neighbours from Ogun who have come to join us. I must say that they have put on quite an admirable showing and it tells all our boxers here in Lagos that you cannot lie at ease”, the governor said.
He thanked the Ministry of Sports and all the members of the Lagos State Sporting family for giving the State such a wonderful and busy sporting calendar recalling that the State had Classics during the year in athletics, in basketball, in chess, in swimming, in taekwondo, in squash, in table tennis closing it all up with the Governor’s Belt Competition to end the sporting calendar.
The Governor also thanked the Chairman of the Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame, Mr. Wale Edu, and all the sponsors for what he described as “a truly inspiring effort from a very humble beginning five years ago, people are taking notice of what we are doing here with amateur boxing”, adding, “What I saw during the classics was many of the stars, the superstars, our golden stars of the 70s and 80s, coming out as coaches, coming out as assistants, coming out as spectators and I hope that the stars of today will draw inspirations from them”.
Paying glowing tributes to the State’s Sporting talents Governor Fashola declared, “Yes, you have done well, you have gone abroad to win for the first time, I think after three or four attempts, but it must signal to you that as you can overcome a club in London that had defeated you previously, so too are the neighbours here whom you have defeated previously telling you they are right behind you”.
He further noted, “Sports talent is never going to last forever. So it is going to require a lot of discipline from you. For me, yesterday is no longer important. Everything you had won yesterday means nothing if you can’t keep it today. So the work that you did yesterday is only perhaps half of the work you must do today in order to stay ahead tomorrow”.
“I am also happy that for the first time in five years, the Governor’s Belt has gone to a female boxer (Miss Aishat). It also shows to the male boxers that you can no longer take anything for granted anymore. There is competition within and there is competition from outside; and the Chairman has already revealed to me that, perhaps next year you will have more invitations from other states”, the Governor said.
Describing the Calendar year prepared for the State by the Ministry of Sports as brilliant, Governor Fashola declared, “It is significant that the Governor’s Belt should close the monthly Boxing Hall of Fame as the last sporting activity organized by our State to bring the sporting calendar for this year to an end. We had special classics especially to fish out and expose young talents”.
In the boxing competitions held before the closing ceremony, nine pairs of boxers competed, five from the junior category or welterweight (below 40 kg) and four from the senior category with two pairs being interstate (Lagos and Ogun) and two teams being female.
Highlight of the event was the decoration of the winners in both the male and female categories by Governor Fashola.Those decorated were Miss Ayisat Oriyomi who won the female category and Waheed Shogbemu, who won the male category.
In a short interview later, Governor Fashola expressed delight at the number of talents that are being developed from the grassroots through the State’s various grassroots sporting programmes pointing out that this has informed his insistence that the National Sports Festival should remain a grassroots programme where new talents are developed instead of an open programme where already developed talents participate.
Also present at the occasion were the Commissioner for Sports, Youths and Social Development, Mr. Enitan Oshodi, Chairman of the Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame, Mr. Wale Edun, officials of the Ministry of Sports, Youths and Social Development, Traditional rulers, former sports stars of the State as well as foreign dignitaries.