The National Sports Festival: Africa's greatest sporting spectacle (2023)

a little story
Starting on March 22, 2020, the 20th edition of the Nigerian National Sports Festival will kick off and the best native Nigerian athletes will gather in ancient Benin City, Edo State for the largest native sports festival in Nigeria. All Nigeria.Africa.

This biennial celebration of sport, canceled and postponed several times for various reasons pointed out by the host States, was introduced into the country's social fabric as one of the weapons destined to end the pain that dampened the bitterness and other consequences of the 1967-1970 World Cup. civil war.

The first festival, which took two years to plan, was held in Lagos, then the capital of Nigeria, in 1973 and was funded by the new National Sports Commission under the direction of Dr. Isaac Akioye lined up.

The festival was held every two years at that time: 1975 in Lagos, 1977 in Kaduna, 1979 in Ibadan and so on. Somewhere down the line, the sequence was interrupted.

My story
I was an athlete in the first two festivals in 1973 and 1975, representing the Western State, which today is Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti.

These festivals firmly prepared me for a full-time football career. Before the festival, he was only a player for a few clubs in Ibadan, although he was a student at Ibadan Polytechnic.

In 1973, I was in the Industrial Attaché at Africa's first and largest television network, WNTV/WNBS, in Agodi, Ibadan, serving as Technical Assistant and Junior Official in charge of football for the broadcasting company.

I was playing for the WNTV/WNBS football team when I was invited to the Western State senior team camp in preparation for the first national athletic festival. The Western Lions, as the team was then called, consisted of the best players from every major club in the state. Being selected to be a part of this elite team spoke volumes about what a good player I must have been without fully appreciating it.

(Video) This Video Will Make You Love Malia Obama ★ 2023

That summer I made the first team for the Western Lions. It was with the team that I got my first taste of international football when we played an illuminated friendly against the Central African Republic national team at the Liberty Stadium in Ibadan. This departure cemented my place on the Western State Festival team, which would camp away from the hustle and bustle of Ibadan, in the quiet and remote village of Ipetumodu, near Ife, for several weeks. We are trained in the facilities of the University of Ife in a very comprehensive preparation for the sports festival.

The scope and demands in the organization of this first festival were very high. I don't think it has been equaled by any host state since, not even Lagos, which hosted it a second time in 1975.

A few weeks after the festival ended, 100 soccer players from all participating states were selected based on their performances during the games and invited to the national camp in Lagos for a selection exercise, which is expected to narrow the squad to 33 players. to form the nucleus. of a new national soccer team called the Green Eagles!

The same formula was adopted in the assembly of the primary and secondary teams, as well as for all other sports after the festival.

The festival became the testing ground for the best athletes. Each of the sports federations organized their own scouts during the festival to identify the best athletes. Then, the people identified in the different sports modalities of the different states were invited by the national federations to form a new nucleus of high-level athletes who were later prepared for the national teams.

In 1973 and 1975, what happened at the senior level was replicated at the junior and mid levels. Each state entered three categories of athletes in as many sports as they had or could afford.

In 1973, I played my first and only game on the opening night of the games in front of a crowd of probably 100,000 against a star-studded team from Lagos State that featured some of the biggest stars in the national team at the time. , including Haruna Ilerika, Yakubu Mambo, Sani Mohammed, Joseph Erico and so on. Although the Western Lions lost, some of us were invited to make the national team a few weeks after the games.

(Video) 2022 National Sports Festival Opens With Thrilling Fanfare

Then they found me out of nowhere. Despite losing our only game, I scored our only goal and became one of three invited players for the Western Lions.
It marked my national recognition and gave me the opportunity to become a Green Eagles player beyond the games.
Such a transition was one of the main objectives of the National Sports Festival: the discovery of young talents.

the challenging years
Since 1973, the festival has undergone several changes. Very few of the original features of the games remain today.

There were fights and periodic confusion about which athletes could compete.
The junior and intermediate levels were dropped from the games, and separate programs were created to support their development, as hosting costs became too high for the states to pay for.
Controversy arose over the eligibility of Nigerian athletes residing abroad to return to the Games and represent the state, which can pay their bills.

(Video) Whitney Houston - Star Spangled-Banner

The costs of organizing the big games became too high for many interested states, leading to delays, postponements and even the final cancellation of what should have continued as biannual games.

However, the festival swept some states of the country, helping to improve part of the local infrastructure and equipment, generating commercial activity and social commitment for two weeks for the 10,000 people, athletes and leaders who brought together a city and temporarily assumed their social activity. . life,

The festival was everything a festival should be and achieved most of its goals, including uniting youth from across the country, helping states develop their sports facilities, bringing people together, creating healthy competition, discovering athletes who are good enough, represent the national teams. etc.

(Video) Who's The GOAT In Every Major Sport?

In the 47 years since that first festival in Lagos, the sports festival has undergone changes that have diminished its importance and luster in Nigerian sport. While some states have tried to raise standards when organizing them (Ogun State is a good example in 2006) by involving the private sector in funding the games, the damage done previously has been too great to prevent the festival from return it to its previous state. glory glory . Cheats and various other bugs infected the game's credibility and few development purposes were achieved.

Edo 2020 - Festival Revival!
That is why Edo 2020 is important. The festival's return to Edo State, considered the home of sports development in the country due to its rich history of featuring many of Nigeria's top athletes in various sports over the decades, is greeted with much positive anticipation. The state's effort to raise standards across the board inspires hope and generates national enthusiasm.

That's why, starting March 22, all roads lead to Benin City and all eyes will be on emerging new talent meeting the original goals of the Games, which are just as relevant today as they were 47 years ago. years.

(Video) The Battle of Champions at the National sports festival Delta 2022 - NaijablaseTv #asaba


1. Shakira & J. Lo's FULL Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show
2. Queensley Asedo wins 20km Race Walk in INSANE HEAT / 🇳🇬 Asaba 2022 National Sports Festival
3. Greatest Sports Moments
(WTD Productions)
4. The HARDEST Slaps From Slap Fighting Championship
(Slap Fighting Championship)
5. Team USA SHOCKS JAMAICA for women's 4x100 world title | NBC Sports
(NBC Sports)
6. Soccer's Most Violent Rivalry: VICE World of Sports
(VICE Sports)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Madonna Wisozk

Last Updated: 04/07/2023

Views: 6207

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Madonna Wisozk

Birthday: 2001-02-23

Address: 656 Gerhold Summit, Sidneyberg, FL 78179-2512

Phone: +6742282696652

Job: Customer Banking Liaison

Hobby: Flower arranging, Yo-yoing, Tai chi, Rowing, Macrame, Urban exploration, Knife making

Introduction: My name is Madonna Wisozk, I am a attractive, healthy, thoughtful, faithful, open, vivacious, zany person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.