Team Lagos athletes are worthy ambassadors at Edo 2020, says Aiyepeku
Following Team Lagos’ fifth position at the just ended 20th edition of the National Sports Festival in Benin City, Edo State, the Executive Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Mr. Sola Aiyepeku, has described the athletes as worthy ambassadors of the state.
The festival had suffered several postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic and eventually kicked off on April 2 amid complaints of ill preparation by athletes at the festival before it finally ended on April 12.
Aiyepeku said that despite some challenges faced by the state during the build-up to the Games, the performance of Team Lagos at the Edo 2020 was worth celebrating.
Speaking with The Guardian during the week, Aiyepeku said that the exploit of Team Lagos, especially in boxing was commendable, adding that their exposure prior to the festival stood for them.
“Lagos is very dominant in boxing and the results at the festival were a testament to this. We were able to expose the boxers to rigorous training before going to the festival. I want to say that what we saw in the boxing event at Edo 2020 was what we expected.
“We are happy they won medals for the state and there is no doubt that we will continue to encourage our boxers to do better in subsequent tournaments,” he said, adding that the medals’ table is not a true reflection of the state’s potential.
“To us in Lagos, the main thing is developmental and for the young athletes to see that they have a platform where they can perform. We will not rest on our oars for us to continue to provide that platform for the athletes, not just to represent themselves, but the state and the country at large so that they can make good progress in their careers.
“In the football event, I am happy that our players were recognised. We will put everything at our disposal to keep on developing and improving on our athletes. And we have already finalised our plans on how to treat our athletes better than what we are currently doing.
“We are planning a long-term approach for the welfare of our athletes. Now that the festival has ended, we will begin to unveil these plans. But the bottom line is that Lagos would no longer train athletes for other states to poach again.
“We have long-term plans, which the athletes will see for themselves that it is more beneficial to stay in Lagos than running to other states. Stability is key in athletes and sports development, and there is always a prize for loyalty. When you are loyal, you get the rewards that come with it and for the sacrifice that you have made.
“For instance in marriage, you don’t say when things are good you stay and when things are bad you run away. We will make the benefit and reward system very attractive. We will do our best, but we are all human beings, at the end of the day it will be up to the athletes to decide where they will stay, but we will not hold anybody back.
“We have a plan that will be beneficial to athletes in the long term, and I believe they and their advisors will see reason in not looking elsewhere. We want to play our card very well, but in the process, we won’t force anybody to take decisions. We will clearly spell out the benefits of representing Lagos State and the fallouts.
“We discovered that many people use the state sports facilities for free, but we will not allow that anymore. If you want to represent other states, you will have to go to that state and train there. We want to get commercial values for our training facilities now. Soon, we will roll out the incentives and the benefits of putting on the colours of Lagos State in the national competitions for the athletes to see for them to take a proper decision on where they want to go and where to belong,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the state sports commission Director-General, Oluwatoyin Gafaar, has given assurance that the Commission would improve on its operations from lessons learnt at Edo 2020 to build and fortify the athletes ahead of the 21st National Sports Festival in Delta State next year.