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Youth Games: Athletes bemoan poor condition, maltreatment

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It’s not all fun and sports at the ongoing seventh National Youth Games in Asaba, Delta State following complaints by athletes and coaches over poor accommodation and feeding arrangements at the Games, after disturbing pictures of teenage athletes sleeping on dirty and torn mattresses without pillows and bedsheets in a hall without curtains, went viral on social media on Monday.

In an attempt to sleep comfortably, the athletes converted their bags to pillows, while they also used their clothes as curtains in the packed hall that housed them, in a move to curb the rays of the sun.

It was also learnt that athletes from three states shared toilets.

Prior to the start of the Games, last Saturday, the Delta State Sports Commission Chairman, Tonobok Okowa, had envisaged accommodation problems due to the rescheduling of the Games.

The event was initially billed to hold from 7 to 17 September but was moved to 20 to 30 September.

Okowa stated that secondary and tertiary institutions in the state rejected overtures from DSSC to use their hostel facilities following the resumption of academic activities in the state.

“The only problem we envisaged is that the Games was being postponed to a time when schools had resumed”, Okowa told a press conference in Asaba before the Games.

“The Federal College of Education (Technical) in Asaba and some other schools declined usage of their facilities as hostel for the Games”.

Okowa, who is also the President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, however, said halls in the state would be used as hostels for athletes and promised that new mattresses, pillows and bedsheets would be provided for athletes.

But contrary to his promise, athletes at the Games said they slept on bare floor for three days before succuor came their way last Sunday.

In separate chats with newsmen, some of the athletes and coaches rued the poor accommodation and feeding arrangements.

“Where we stay is very bad,” an athlete from Imo State, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The PUNCH.

“We slept on bare floor since we arrived in Asaba last Thursday. And when we were given beds, four of us shared one student bed until yesterday (Sunday) when we were given new mattresses.

“The feeding has also been terrible and this has affected our performances in a way. I have to tell you that so far it has not been the best National Youth Games in Asaba”.

A coach from Cross River State also decried the poor state of accommodation at the Games.

“No parent will be delighted to see how children are being treated here in Asaba”, the Calabar-based coach said.

“These athletes are supposed to compete under better conditions so that they can give their best but that is not the case here. We will be happy with whatever performances they put up because the environment has not been the best”.

An athlete competing in table tennis also blamed the poor accommodation and feeding for his performance.

“Where we sleep smells and at night mosquitoes disturb us a lot there but I hope things here improve”.

The Project Officer for hostel accommodation at the ongoing Games, Ademola Are, said the pictures being circulated were the ones taken at the earlier stage of the Games.

“The pictures that have been circulated were the ones taken at the earlier stage when we were still struggling to ensure that we house everybody,” Are said in a statement.

“The Local Organising Committee had earlier alerted to possible squeeze on accommodation due to the postponement of the Games into a period when schools had resumed and earlier arrangements to secure hostel facilities were consequently declined by various schools.

“The LOC duly communicated the Federal Ministry of Sports and the Committee of Directors of Sports and they gave the clear for improvisations to be made with halls and mattresses to make up for the expected shortfall.

“The facility in question does not represent facilities in place. There are various other fully and well-bedded hostels in use at the Games”.

Meanwhile, journalist Osasu Obayiuwana expressed disgust at the appalling sleeping conditions of athletes and officials at the Games.

“This is how Nigeria’s children were treated at the National Youth Games in Asaba, Delta State? My God! Sports Minister Owan Enoh, you were there, were you not? What do you have to say about this? A country is judged by how it treats its children. This is piss-poor treatment. Utterly, disgraceful. How can Nigeria treat children like this? I am so f**king pissed off right now. Nigeria is a shame of a nation”, Obayiuwana wrote on X.

Another X user, ElPadrino wrote, “If my child was selected for this Games, after seeing this picture, I am pulling my child out immediately and will petition the state governor and organisers for subjecting my child and other children to such. It is a sport I have consented to and not Police College Ikeja”.

FIFA mediator, Bevonher Agame, urged the organisers of the Games to address the accommodation and feeding issues.

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