Ogun State’s Tradition of Nurturing Budding Sports Talent - Fanning the Flames - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Ogun State’s Tradition of Nurturing Budding Sports Talent - Fanning the Flames

By Tunde Delu

It’s 7a.m. on the morning of 3rd November 2023. I’m at the MKO Abiola International Stadium Kuto, Abeokuta, to pick up three of my buddies who are sporting hometown heroes in their own rights. 

Coach Abayomi Ashipa is a former National High Jump champion and NUGA Games Record Holder; Coach Dele Elegbede is a former National Walking Event champion and 20km Race Walk National Record Holder; Coach Elele (Akinpelu Saheed Ayinde), a former 400m elite runner, NIPOGA and National games champion. 

Together, the four of us journeyed to Otunba Dina Stadium in Ijebu Ode to participate in the second edition of the Tobi Amusan/Abiola Onakoya Sprints and Relay Tournament. 

These two global athletes need little introduction. Tobi Amusan is a World 110m champion and record holder. Abiola Onakoya (to whom I was introduced a week earlier and with whom I had a wide-ranging conversation about athletics and sports in general), is a former National 400m athlete. Both are Ogun State indigenes – raised, discovered, and nurtured in the state. Both have achieved national and global prominence. 

These two jointly host this yearly athletic event to boost local and national talent.  

When we arrived at the stadium in Ijebu Ode, the pre-event activities were well underway. Athletes were registering for their various events and a large crowd of spectators had gathered in the stands. I too was meant to compete in one of the events – the Masters Series Sprint. However, that event was cancelled for logistical reasons. Instead, along with my friends (who officiated at the event) and a 3,000 strong cheering crowd, I got to witness history in the making as about 500 young, up-and-coming athletes from Ogun state and across the country competed in Sprints and Relay events over the course of the morning and well into the afternoon. 

The atmosphere was simply electric! Amidst the noise and palpable excitement around me, I got to reflect on the power of sports – its inherent health benefits, it’s capability to channel youthful energy towards positive endeavors, its ability to unlock educational and economic opportunities for the community and for those with exceptional talent, and its role as a unifier of diverse peoples and cultures. 

The atmosphere also got me thinking particularly about Ogun State and its sporting history and special knack for identifying and nurturing sporting talents (of which this event’s organizers are just two examples). I pondered on why the state has known much success in this arena. I concluded that four factors have contributed to the state’s chequered sports history and tradition. 

The first is a youthful population and one of the highest concentrations of academic institutions ‭- creates a regenerative pool of sporting talent.‬

‭ I’ll give a few examples ‬that serve as cases in point - At the National Youth Sports Festival held earlier this year, Kehinde Olude won the gold medal in the U-15 1500m girls event; Ayomide Badru won the gold medal in the U-15 800m boys event; Toheebat Jimoh won the gold medal in the u-15 event‭. 

A young protege, 16 year old John Caleb achieved a personal best ‬of 10.47sec in the 100m men’s event at this year’s Lagos Athletics series (amongst a field of national elite runners) and finally, Ronke Akanbi set the World and National record in the 3000m event at the World Secondary School games in France with a time of 9mins36.86Secs.
Another factor that advances sporting talent in the state and highlights its sporting history is the availability of top-notch facilities and venues with capabilities to host major professional and amateur events. Ogun State is currently deep in preparation to host the National Sports Festival for a second time (Gateway Games 2024).

 It will be a veritable opportunity to once again showcase the state’s sporting infrastructure, as well as indigenous culture and talent. 

The third and arguably the most important factor that has enhanced Ogun State’s history and tradition of elevating sporting talents is the support and engagement of the community. This includes the government and sports enthusiasts in the community such as school teachers, local coaches, public and private organizations, and philanthropic individuals have been instrumental in mentoring and investing in the careers of talented youth in the state, and catapulting some of them to national and global prominence. 

‭Some examples of such philanthropic individuals are the current Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who “adopted” Tobi Amusan and catalyzed her rise to stardom and who also facilitated the State’s bid and winning of the hosting rights of the next edition of the National Sports Festival, Late Chief MKO Abiola, an Ogun indigene who was known during his lifetime as Africa’s Pillar of Sports, Chief Bukola Olopade, Africa’s number one Sports marketing guru and organizer of International Road Races, Mathematical Segun Odegbami whose Soccer academy is a hotpot for budding soccer talents and Hon Kunle Soname, the proprietor of Remo Stars who has done a wonderful job in putting Ogun State on the continental footballing map. ‬

The final noteworthy factor is the presence of a vibrant sports media industry in the state. The work of veteran sports journalists such as Alhaji Akeem Akintunde, Biodun Alabi and many others in covering and analyzing the sports scene helps elevate the stories of indigenous sporting heroes, animates statewide interest in sports, and provide opportunities and inspiration for budding talent and aspiring sports journalists.
I came away from‭ the ‬Tobi Amusan/Abiola Onakoya Sprints and Relay Tournament feeling proud of Ogun State’s well sustained tradition of identifying and nurturing sporting talents. 

This for me, is a reflection of the Ogun state’s dynamic character, inspired leadership over the years, passionate commitment of the indigenes to sports, and pride in its homegrown heroes. 
I have no doubt that this will continue. 

Cheers to the future. 

Tunde Delu, Public Analyst and Sports Enthusiast

No comments:

Post a Comment