Lagos – Some wheelchair basketball players on Tuesday in Lagos said they were very hopeful that the sport would soon become one of the medal-winning events at the National Sports Festival (NSF).
The players, in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said they were confident the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung would handle the issue properly.
NAN recalls that the players had, during Dalung’s visit to the National Stadium in Lagos on Monday, presented a letter to the minister.
In it, they had requested for the inclusion of the sport as a scoring sport in the NSF.
Dalung, who was with Alhassan Yakmut, the Director-General, National Sports Commission (NSC), and other ministry and commission officials, had assured the players that he would look into the matter.
Tope Ogunyemi, a national team player based in Australia, said while Dalung’s predecessors had turned deaf hears to them they were now happy and hopeful of a positive development.
“It is a sign of good things to come. There is so much challenge facing us as players and we are happy to meet with the minister.
“Wheelchair basketball has come of age, having been inaugurated as a sport under the Paralympics Federation of Nigeria in 2010.
“The association was formed in 1999, and there have been several local and international championships in the sport since then, which have brought many sports enthusiasts together to watch and appreciate.
“The sport has developed many sportsmen in the country through several successfully-organised clinics that dated back to 2004.
“Above all, it is a well-accepted sport with a growing number of athletes and states participation,’’ Ogunyemi said.
Prince Adeyemi, an ex-player, told NAN that the minister’s visit was well received and there would be meaningful development for the sport.
“We cannot continue to operate under a situation where the sport cannot gain acceptance for entry into the National Sports Festival.
“With its acceptance, it will bring about more states’ participation and more stakeholders and sponsors, and the consciousness to help and promote the sport will develop,’’ Adeyemi said.
Funsho Ogunshola, an Ogun state player, in his reaction, said the sport was growing and with the annual Victor Ochei International Championship the sport was doing well.
He said if the sport got admitted into the NSF, its level of development would rise and it would help develop the players when they played at international championships.
“It is going to be a big morale-booster for lovers of the sport. We are singing the same song nationwide. This change has to come and it has to come this year,’’Ogunshola said.
NAN reports that wheelchair basketball had been a demonstration event at the NSF held in Bauchi, Benin and Abuja in 2000, 2002 and 2004 respectively.(NAN)