Nigerian Karatekas Can Rule The World

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Secretary General of the Karate Federation of Nigeria, KFN Clement Iyaluegbeghe told DAMILARE OKUNOLA in this interview shortly after a Military/Paramilitary Karate competition, that Nigerian Karatekas can become world champions

What’s this competition all about?

It’s a karate championship for the Military and Paramilitary organisations with the aim of providing them with an opportunity to compete. Not just for the sake of it, but to keep them in good shape for their jobs, to keep them agile, keep them on their toes and to enable them learn some tactics to assist them in doing their jobs better. There are also some athletes among them that are outstanding who can be exposed to represent the country at international tournaments. So, this championship will help them to be competition-fit. About three of these players represented Nigeria at the All Africa Games in Maputo.

Nigeria is backward in the world of Karate, especially in terms of medal haul and success, what could be responsible for this?

I will not agree with you that we are backward because we have made our mark in the sport. At the continental level, we have not fared badly; at the sub-regional level, we have done pretty well and on the world scene, we’ve made ourselves known. The only issue I can see is that our Karatekas don’t have the opportunity that others out there have. For instance, we don’t have the wherewithal to participate at major events like other Karatekas do and that’s why we need support; not only from the government but from corporate bodies and well meaning individuals to help us achieve our aim of taking thr spot to where it should be in the country.

As a person who has popularised Karate in Nigeria over the years, what are the challenges you’ve faced so far?

The challenges are numerous but, we don’t have enough funds to do all that we are supposed to do. For instance, we’re supposed to organise competitions where we’ll award prizes and materials to our athletes but we don’t have the required fund to carry these out. Another thing is that because we don’t have money, we’ve been unable to expose our athletes to competition. What I’d love to see is Nigerian Karatekas making waves on the world stage with the best in their fields. So far, we have only been able to win silver medal at the All Africa Games and we’re not happy about that because we believe that we have the talents and materials to win gold, but we’ve not been able to achieve that. Winning gold is not something you can just achieve without adequate preparations. One needs sponsorship, training and other essentials to achieve that.

Karate is not one of the medal winning sports at the Olympics, what does this mean to you?

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It’s one of the sports recognised by the International Olympic Committee, IOC but it is yet to be incorporated into the games but I understand that the world Karate body is making frantic efforts to ensure that karate features at the 2016 Olympic Games. So, I’m not so disturbed about that.

What efforts has the Karate Federation made to ensure that hidden talents are discovered throughout the federation?

We have made so much effort over the years to ensure the development of these Karatekas. And at the last National Sports Festival; only two states were not represented at the games. Even in those states, they had Karatekas but just did not make it to the festival.

The various games held in tertiary institutions reveal talented Karatekas. What do you do with these athletes?

We only try to identify them and train them in preparation for international tournaments. We invite some of them for trials and help them hone their skills. Ofcourse, you know that most of these people are students drawn from the competitions that we have organised. So, we always have plans for them.

When should the country be expecting a Nigerian champion at the world stage in karate?

I cannot give you an exact time, but I know that in a few years’ time, with all that we are putting in place, we can be sure to have a world champion in the sport sooner than later.