African Pillar of Sports, Sen. Orji Kalu, has advised the Federal Government to commence early preparations for the 2024 Olympics.
Newsmen report that Kalu made the call recently when Nigeria’s only decorated male gymnast, Uche Eke, was honoured with a three-in-one party in Maryland, U. S.
Eke won gold at 2019 All African Games in Morocco and equally represented Nigeria in the recently concluded Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Kalu urged the Federal Government to begin training now to avoid losing another generation of young players in the international market.
He said:” People should not just look at the trophy part of each tournament, but consider the economic gains or losses that come with it.”
The former Abia governor who during his tenure helped Enyimba Football Club win African Championship Cup and Super Cup back to back said:
“We lost a generation of young players in the international market simply because we couldn’t qualify for soccer in the Tokyo Olympics.
“If we made it at football level, some of the players would have been exposed to international clubs.
“Both themselves and their families, as well as their communities, will benefit. The country will also benefit because the capital inflow into our economy will be massive.
“This is why the Ministry of Sports should increase its pace of hard work. Look at our basketball team, they are strong and formidable, but we don’t need them to scatter.
“They need to continue practising together and stay in action from now till 2024 Olympics.
“ For us football lovers, it was dark moments for us seeing soccer played without Nigerian team, and we don’t need that again, ” the Senate chief whip said
He also called on parents to encourage their children to represent Nigeria in international games rather than identifying with other countries.
” We may not have gotten to a stage we all wish our country, but it’s not good for parents to discourage their children against representing Nigeria in international games.
“Allow them to represent Nigeria, give them the necessary support and in turn, you are contributing to the growth of Nigeria and her economy, ” he said.
While praising Eke for making Nigeria proud, Kalu urged the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare to dig deeper both in and outside the country and recruit talented youths.
“We have thousands of them and if we start preparing them now, they will shine to our satisfaction,” he said.