Fresh doubts over Edo 2020 as FG insists on restriction of sporting activities

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• Adelabu wants PTF to scrutinise conditions of Nigerian athletes
The Federal Government may have put paid to the staging of the 2020 Edo National Sports Festival this year. This follows the pronouncement by Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, that sporting activities would not return to the country any time soon on account of the rising cases of the infectious disease.

He was addressing the daily briefing of the body where he noted that the move was part of measures to stem the spread of the virus.

He said, “If guidelines say large gatherings are banned, with people in events not exceeding 20, except at work places, I don’t see the excitement in allowing soccer to return to empty stadium.

“A lot of European countries where these games have started are doing it because they are big businesses… they are doing it carefully. We are not excited about allowing sports to return.

“We will get there, but for now, we are concerned with few activities to reopen. We will continue to review and study the situation and know what next based on data, science and peculiarity to our environment,” he said.

Reacting to the Federal Government’s position on sporting activities in the COVID-19 era, Special Adviser to Sports Minister on Media, John Joshua Akanji, said the ministry was waiting for the report of its 11-man committee before deciding on the timeline for the sports festival.

“The committee is still working, but they will soon send in their report, which will then inform any decision the ministry will take,” he said.

Some stakeholders want the festival to hold before the Edo State governorship election to avoid the fate that befell the last edition originally scheduled for Calabar, Cross River State.

Cross River won the rights to host the 19th National Sports Festival when Senator Liyel Imoke was the state’s governor, but his successor, Ben Ayade, failed to continue the process, hence the Federal Government was forced to host it in Abuja.

Recently, the Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, explained why the country should host the festival this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dare said that adequate measure towards ensuring that the protocols of Covid-19 are strictly enforced before, during and after the sporting festival amongst athletes, participants and officials had been put in place, adding that the Council on Sports set up the 11-man committee to ensure that the COVID-19 infrastructure in Edo State were up-to-date and adequate and understood by everybody concerned with the festival.

He said the ministry would “put together a Sports Code of Practice/Management to further guide the Edo 2020 sporting activities during the COVID-19 period in preparation for the reopening of the Stadia.”

Meanwhile, former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu has called for the review of the current position of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on sport with immediate effect.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Adelabu, an ex-player with IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan said: “We saw during the early days of the pandemic how big clubs in Europe contributed money to help smaller clubs, who may be struggling with payment of salaries of professional players for that matter. I don’t think that any state government and even the Federal Government did anything to alleviate the suffering of many clubs in the country.

“I want to appeal to the COVID-19 PTF chairman to set up a department within the PTF that will scrutinise the conditions of our sports men and women across the states because no preparation or follow up programme has been put in place for them since the pandemic. The department must have nothing to do with the bureaucracies of the federations or the sports ministry,” he stated.

According to Adelabu, the PTF has to ensure that every stadium in the country is fumigated as well as other sporting arenas in the universities.

“The funds donated to states should be used for this purpose by each state governor. It is a huge responsibility that the Federal Government alone should not be allowed to shoulder. We have to be ready to keep fit and return to the stadium.

“There should be testing centres in all the stadia across the country and ex-internationals and other sports men and women could be trained to carry out test at various centres. The football clubs and academies should present themselves for testing before getting the clearance to resume sporting activity. We have enough manpower to carry out tests across the country, and we will report back to the PTF chairman Boss Mustapha. We are a unique group and we should be treated as such.”

He added: “There is no point keeping sports men and women inactive when we have not exhausted every available intellectual approach to the management and containment of the virus with respect to sport. I hope that Mr. Boss Mustapha will see the wisdom in my request for this unique approach to our preparation to get back to the field of play.

“I think the Federal Government should spread its tentacles to identify with other facets of the economy such as sport, education, technology, research etc. to know what we have and how to develop them to prepare for eventualities.”

“The postponement of the sports festival was not appropriate and it was because the organisers were not able to offer the government a well thought out plan to show they know what it takes to use sports to address unexpected challenges. The festival did not have to be watched by crowd. Everything would have been transmitted live on the TV without any crowd in the stadia and with the few athletes maintaining adequate social distance. It would have been a unique opportunity for the COVID-19 PTF to test all the athletes and the officials,” he stated.

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