Stakeholders Call For Grassroots Development Of Canoeing In Nigeria
Canoeing, Rowing and Sailing enthusiasts in Nigeria have advocated more development of the sport at the grassroots level across the nation.
A cross section of the enthusiasts in an interview at the end of the 1st African Admiral Porbeni Canoe Race championships in Abuja, commended the organisers of the event. The championships also served as an Olympics pre-qualifier event ahead of the main qualifying tournament in November.
Team Nigeria emerged as the overall winners of the maiden African Admiral Porbeni Canoe Race championships at the Jabi Boat Club in Abuja.
No fewer than 100 athletes from five African countries — Ghana, Senegal, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo and hosts Nigeria — took part in the Abuja event.
The enthusiasts said there was a need to continue to organise more of such events in other parts of the country to ensure the sport’s development at the grassroots.
President of International Canoe Federation (ICF), Thomas Konietzko, expressed satisfaction at the quality of the event, adding that he was impressed with the number of talents available in the country.
“I think we have so many talented athletes here in Nigeria and this competition has proven that African organisers are able to organise Canoe competitions on a very professional level,” Konietzko said.
“We have to develop sports in Africa and as a first important step, we need more regional competitions here. The lack of equipment is also another important issue and we have had meaningful discussions with the Federation on how we can help to engage more kids in the sport.”
“With time, more African athletes will pick interest in the sport and even go ahead to qualify and compete for medals at the Olympic games,” he added.
The President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Habu Gumel, said the federation had the capacity to develop the sport at the grassroots, especially with the vast waterways and talents that abound in the country.
“It is very important to develop the sport at the grassroots and we have a lot of waterways and talents scattered everywhere in the country,” Gumel said.
“We are in discussion with both the ICF president as well as other international organisations to provide the federation with more equipment. We from the NOC will continue to give them all the necessary support so they can be able to excel.”
Also, the President of the Rowing, Canoeing and Sailing Federation, Festus Porbeni, said the idea to organise the event came from his desire to ensure that the sport was developed at the grassroots.
“I found out that Nigeria was good in rowing theoretically but we were not practising it as much,” Porbeni said.
“So, I had to engage all stakeholders of the sport to ensure that we get fully involved in the sport.
“We now have boats here and manufacture them locally in Nigeria. It is a very good thing rather than importing from abroad,” he said.
He said the tournament helped the federation to discover new talents, adding that there were plans to expand as time went on.
“We want to ensure that we develop the sport at the grassroots, that’s why we organised it in Jos, Lagos, Imo and now Abuja,” Porbeni added.
“So, we are trying to project it as much as possible; anywhere there is a body of water in any part of the country we will explore the possibility of hosting the event there.”