Sports is important for fostering cohesion and nation building – Jonathan

The president emphasised grassroots sports development.

President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday formally launched the project Rhythm N Play Campaign for Grassroots Sports Mobilisation, at the velodrome of the National Stadium in Abuja.

The President said that the project is geared towards the renewal of sports development in the nation.

“2013 is turning out to be a success for the country in Sports. In February, our gallant Super Eagles won the African Cup of Nations, AFCON. Two weeks ago, I hosted a joint Reception for the Golden Eaglets who represented the country at the African Under 17 Football Championship in Morocco as well as our Athletics Team which emerged overall winners of the maiden Under 18 African Athletics Championship in Warri. They were honoured for their extra-ordinary feat and display of talent in their chosen sports at the international arena. So far, we are doing well in our effort to fly the Green-White-Green in the Football World Cup tournament in Brazil next year. This is a great moment for sports in Nigeria,” Mr. Jonathan said.

He added that the momentum from these recent achievements must be built upon, noting that grassroots sports development is the way to ensure this.

Mr. Jonathan also noted that sports is an important vehicle for nation building which is why government gives greater attention to sports development.

“In National competitions, it mirrors our pride, emotion, unity and discipline. Aside from these obvious benefits that sporting glory brings, it is also a major tool for youth development,” he said.

He therefore pledged his administration’s commitment to youth-oriented sports development.

“Rhythm N’ Play, the programme that we are launching today, is aimed at providing young Nigerians under the age of 17 years, with structured programmes that combine sports and play as critical learning and development tools. As the biggest campaign for youth participation in sports ever launched in our country, this initiative will revolutionize grassroots sports in our dear nation. Our target is to introduce 2 million additional children to sports over the next two years,” he explained.

On the problems facing sports development in Nigeria, he said, “We are not unaware of the fundamental constraints facing this initiative, such as inadequate sporting facilities and qualified coaches in the majority of our educational institutions; nevertheless, we are determined to reverse this situation. We will overcome existing constraints by articulating cost efficient solutions to empower children and facilitate greater interest and participation in sports.”

The president then called on state governments and other stakeholders in the private sectors to support this project, saying, “Partnering with you in developing sports facilities in rural and urban areas, we are certain to significantly spur the growth and development of grassroots sports.”


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