7th July, 2011
A shocking discovery was made at the ongoing 17th National Sports Festival in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when some members of Team Ogun in the men’s volleyball team could not recite Nigeriaâ€™s national anthem.
It turned out that some of the members of the team were mercenaries from Niger Republic.
P.M.Sports gathered that Team Ogun, which had been boasting of a high-place finish in the festival were billed to take on Team Edo in a quarter final semi final match at the Adokie Amiesimaka stadium on Tuesday when their opponents raised an alarm that at least five of Team Ogun players were foreigners, which made them ineligible for the event.
After a heated argument, Ondo buttressed their claims by showing the officials pictures of the players which they took during a friendly tour to a neighbouring country.
But officials of Team Ogun remained adamant, claiming that the players are all Nigerians. The bubble, however, burst when the players in question were asked to recite any line of the Nigerian national anthem which they could not do.
After a thorough investigation, one of the players in question admitted that they were recruited by the state a couple of months ago to participate in the Sports Festival.
This development prompted the Nigeria Volleyball Federation, NVF, to call for an emergency meeting of statesâ€™ associations and coaches. At the end of the meeting, it was resolved that henceforth, severe punishment would be meted out to any state that fields mercenaries in any of its event.
NVF also condemned the use of mercenaries to prosecute the National Sports Festival.
The hammer of the federation also fell on Team Ogun, as their male team was expelled from the festival by the NVF technical committee because Ogun breached the laws and regulations of the festival.
The Permanent Secretary of the Niger State Ministry of Sports, John Tamaha, said the objectives of the Sports Festival is being breached by the unprofessional attitude of some statesâ€™ coaches and umpires who had allegedly adopted the win-at-al-costs ploy.
Tamah, who heads the Niger State delegation to the Garden Games 2011, said one of the objectives of the Games is to discover young athletes who would be nurtured to stardom, â€œbut it is sad that the win-at-all-costs syndrome has led some statesâ€™ officials to woo the sports federation officials with money in a bid to improve their medal haul on the Main Organising Committeeâ€™s medals table.”
He commended Rivers State for organising a befitting tournament, adding that the state has improved on the accommodation hitches and feeding problems observed early in the competition.