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​​Athletes, officials protest Lagos absence from Youth Games

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Officials and athletes are at war  with the Lagos State Government after they were denied participation at the ongoing National Youth Games in Ilorin, Kwara State.
It’s the third time the state will  be absent from the competition under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
Last month in Ibadan, Lagos won  the South-West Zonal Eliminations, which served as qualifiers for the  NYG.
No fewer than 118 athletes represented Team Lagos at the zonal eliminations that also had Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun states competing.
However, the qualified athletes, who had embarked on intensive training for the NYG, were stunned on the eve of the championship, when they were informed the state would not participate at the annual event in Ilorin.
On Saturday, the aggrieved athletes staged a protest from Rowe Park, Yaba, to the Teslim Balogun Stadium, to drive home their grievances.
Some of the athletes and officials, who spoke with The PUNCH, slammed the Lagos State Government for being insensitive to the plight of athletes in the state.
They alleged that the Ambode administration was not interested in grooming up-and-coming athletes, but only interested in the glamour involved in hosting international competitions.
Ahmad Adetola-Kazeem, Founder/Head Coach, Q-MADI Taekwondo Club, Gbagada, Lagos, lamented the non-participation of two of his athletes Wisdom Samuel and Malik Balogun in the taekwondo event at the ongoing Games in Ilorin.
“Ambode just failed hundreds of young boys and girls in Lagos State by failing to register them for the Youth Games, which serve as qualification for the World Youth Games, just like he did at the last edition. His government is quick to imprison young hawkers but insensitive towards empowering them through sports or any other means. It appears our governor values building bridges than building lives,” Adetola-Kazeem stated.
“Ambode’s government has denied my athletes and hundred others the opportunity of representing this country in tournaments.
“Many people are depressed. Some of these boys and girls are the best in the country but they don’t have the opportunity of being called national champions because of an insensitive government that believes in empowering East Africans with marathons rather than Nigerian youths.”
The lawyer added that they were not properly briefed on why the state failed to contest at the event, after making the athletes go through the qualifiers in Ibadan.
“No cogent reason was given for the decision they took. The officials must tell us why they failed those of us that have toiled for the second time in two years.”
Father of Malik Balogun, Kunle, said his  family had been left devastated since their son couldn’t attend the Games.
“I felt so bad, I’m not happy, my wife is not happy also. Malik is down because he believes he would have won a medal if he took part at the Games. He spent all his time training before he was told that he won’t participate in the event,” Kunle stated.
One of the athletes, who spoke on condition of  anonymity, said, “Last year, we were also denied but we thought it was because the government was just coming in. Now we know that they don’t have grassroots sports in their agenda. We have to look elsewhere.”
When our correspondent called the Director-General, Lagos State Sports Commission, Adewunmi Ogunsanya, on Monday, on why Lagos was absent from the Games, he said, “I can’t be definite right now but I might be able to give you a proper answer or information tomorrow (Tuesday).”

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