ABUJA – Sunday Adeleye, the Technical Director of Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), says the federation has concluded plans to embark on an Under-15 Talent Hunt through youth coaches at school inter-house sports.
Adeleye told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja this would help the federation overcome the issue of false declaration of ages among athletes.
“It is a global phenomenon that most times catches up against those that indulge in it.
“The AFN led by Ibrahim Gusau is poised to eradicate the issue of age falsification in Nigerian athletics, because we have enough raw talents which can compete globally in every age grade.
“Through the newly-introduced U-15 talent hunt programme, coaches and technical officials will be collating data of our young talents from their schools and submit to the federation for record-keeping.
“We will focus on inter-house sports because school authorities often get the correct age of pupils and students at the point of enrolment, unlike inter-school sports events where age declaration may be compromised to win medals.
“We sincerely thank the coaches and athletics technical officials for offering voluntary service towards the realisation of this objective.
“It shows their patriotism and belief in the current leadership of AFN in its commitment to bring back the glorious past of athletics in Nigeria,” he said.
Adeleye urged other stakeholders in athletics to support the federation’s programmes in the spirit of patriotism and sports development.
Speaking on the development, Olalekan Soetan, the founder of SLOEKTAN Athletics Academy in Ogun State, explained why the coaches offered to make the sacrifice.
“We the coaches know that AFN is going through some hardship in its bid to restructure and finance athletics programmes in the country.
“We therefore decided to volunteer our services so that efforts to hunt for young talents in athletics events can be successful and Nigeria will return to its glorious past in track and field.
“With the approval of the federation, we will be compiling data of promising athletes who are less than 15 years old during inter-house sports activities, train them and send their data to AFN for the follow-up.
“By the time you have the best athletes of various categories from various states, definitely we will at the end of the the final screenings have world-class young athletes.
“Other technical officials in athletics are with us on this patriotic journey and we believe that in no time, we will have replacements for our current world-class athletes when they quit the stage.
“Another Commonwealth Games is around the corner and for us to come back with many medals this time around, we have to start preparing now,” he said.
NAN reports that Soetan was one of the coaches who led Nigerian athletes to the African Youths Championship at Mauritius in 2015.
Also, Kola Adebayo, a coach with EagleSight Academy of Lagos, said there was no better time to make such sacrifice by athletics coaches and technical officials.
“We all know the challenge AFN is facing and some of us decided that we cannot continue to lament, we have to do something.
“That was when the idea of the under-15 talent hunt at the grassroots came up and we volunteered to be part of the efforts to bring back the lost glory of Nigeria.
“If we really want to get better replacements for the likes of Blessing Okagbare and other Nigerian stars in the nearest future, the time to start is now.
“Today’s star athletes won’t be there tomorrow. Don’t let us leave a vacuum when they quit, let’s start developing their successors now,’’ he said.