The Minister of Youth and Sports development, Solomon Dalung, said that adequate funding was necessary for the development of grassroots sports in country.
He said this during the opening ceremony of the second Akwa Ibom State Youth Sports Festival in Uyo, on Tuesday.
Mr. Dalung, who was represented by Esther Aluko, Permanent Secretary, in the ministry, said a well-funded structural sporting system was needed at the grassroots level to catch the children young.
He noted that the organisation of sports festival was germane to sports development in states and the country at large.
The minister said that regular and adequate funding would help build a strong base for sports development in the country.
He said Akwa Ibom was already on the path to excellence in sports judging from their performance in sporting events in the country.
He urged the state government to encourage athletes, adding that potential athletes would be discovered during the festival.
“The organisation of state sports festival is a grassroot sports development programme which is critical to attaining high performance and success in sports.
“The development of high performance sports from grassroots to the early level should now be the focus for states.
“Regular and adequate funding for structural and consistent state sports festival will help to build a strong base for the systematic discovery, identification, training and development of athletes into various public activities in the state.
“This also will ensure the sustainable framework for sports development in the state and within a short time Akwa Ibom will be adjudged the best sporting state in Nigeria’’, Mr. Dalung said.
He commended the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, for making it possible for the students to showcase their talents through the festival.
Mr. Emmanuel, in his remarks said that his administration’s commitment to sports development in the state would be seen in the sports activities.
He said that the government had commenced the building of sports centres in each of the 10 Federal constituencies of the state.
Mr. Emmanuel noted that this was in a bid to expose the youths to the best possible sports facilities, and to catch young talents and groom them for the future.
“To us, exposing our lads to the best possible facilities when they are young remains the best investment one can make.
“That is why we have decided to catch them young; and this is also the central aim of this competition.
“We are glad that our efforts in sports development in Akwa Ibom state are beginning to yield fruits, and bringing us trophies home and away.
“We have come here today as proud Akwa Ibomites ready and willing to unleash our healthy competitive spirit that represents the very soul and essence of the Akwa Ibom character.
“My administration sees sports development beyond what others see, we see the `Dakkada’ spirit beaming in our land through sports.
“We must ensure that we give this generation of Akwa Ibom children the necessary support and exposure for them to rise to greatness through sports.
“That is the vision that brought us out here today,” he said.
The governor said that the Akwa Ibom would not rest until they give the world another Serena Williams.
He said, “Let us not rest until stars in the likes of Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Lebron James and Usain Bolt are discovered in here Akwa Ibom.”
The highpoint of the event was the lighting of the festival torch by the governor signaling the beginning of the one week competition.