We need more private sector participation to develop our sports – Dilichukwu, FCT director of sports

We need more private sector participation to develop our sports – Dilichukwu,  FCT director of sports

Chief Mrs Dilichukwu Onyedima is the director of FCT sports department.  She is a woman of many parts and has chaired the Women’s Professional League. The former executive member of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in this interview with Taofeek Lawal, talked about the achievements of the FCT sports in 2017 and plans for 2018.


 What has been the achievements of the FCT Sports Department in the year 2017?

I can say we achieved a lot by starting with the FCT jogging and aerobic exercise which was approved by the minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello. The FCT workforce has keyed into it and was a huge success from the onset. The purpose of this actually is to build a strong workforce for the FCT and we are not relenting. The next one is going to be in March and we are working on that. Aside from this, Nigerians are aware of our performance in the Youth Games which held in Ilorin last year. And apart from other national competitions that we participated in, we also attended some invitational competitions where we won trophies in table tennis, lawn tennis, volleyball, cricket and so on. We also won trophies in chess and scrabble. We participated in these competitions (invitational tournaments) to make sure that the training we are giving to our children are yielding result and at the same time. We also attended wrestling competition in Port Harcourt where we performed very well and our wrestlers came back with medals. We attended the CBN Cup organized by the Table Tennis Federation and our children made us proud. Our coaches are also doing their best through the training they have exposed the athletes and this has impacted positively on the children in the competitions that we have attended. I think that in most of the sports we are doing well and from what we have seen, I know that by the time we attend the National Sports Festival or the Youth Games coming up later in the year, we will do better than last year. Again, there is an invitation for a grassroots competition coming up in April and we have commenced training towards that. In athletics, we are able to discover one of the youngest athletes that won medals at the Youth Games in Ilorin and she is doing well. This we will continue to do and build on it for subsequent games.


Just recently, the Japanese Embassy donated some basketball sports equipment to the FCT Sports Department, what other areas are we looking forward to from other embassies especially in the area of grassroots sport development?

A lot of embassies are working with us. The Korean Embassy is already working with the FCT Taekwondo Association and they have a lot of programs for us. It will interest you to know that to know that they sent some of our athletes and coaches to Korea for training. The Japanese are also here with their coaches training our athletes. The Japanese have selected five or six of our athletes for scholarship. The scholarship is so enticing because it is all-encompassing. It is good they are helping us and the children are happy about it. We are bringing the children on the courts so that the coaches can see them and know that the athletes have all it takes to excel in the game of basketball. The scholarship given is good for all of us, the parents and the society at large. We are also working with the Chinese Embassy and they have promised that by the time we conclude our arrangement, they will be taking five athletes for six months training every year. Their concentration, however, is on the underaged and not the established athletes. They want under 15 who they believe have an easy understanding at that level. Our partnership with the Chinese is ping pong or what is popularly referred to as table tennis as well as badminton and we believe that this will help our children a lot. Somebody was also here from the Hungarian Embassy telling us that they want to organize a road race like mini-marathon. We believe this is good for us and we have already scheduled a meeting with the embassy if it is something they can sponsor. The issue here is how we can get sponsorship from outside to help the youth because the government cannot do everything. We have spread our tentacles to other places to involve the private sector to key into our activities for sponsorship and our youth will be better for it. It is also going to be a form of corporate social responsibility on the part of the private sector. As they do this, they are helping us, they are helping themselves and they are helping the society. We are happy with the way things are going and we believe a lot will be achieved this year.


You are an advocate of girl-child involvement in sports. So what goals have you set for yourself in making sure that more girls participate actively in sports in 2018?

Last year we started the FCT female football league and if you are aware it has all been about the male league. But we are lucky because the government has approved the female version for us. It gladdens my heart that our girls can now showcase their skills to the world and this is good for them. In basketball, we have male and female and they are both doing well. Some of these children that are being picked from our basketball courts in Area 10 are girls. In everything we do, we always make sure that the girls are involved. We are also planning to establish sports facilities in some neighbourhood so that wherever you live you can access the facilities for recreation. And if we can do this, we can select some part and make them girl-friendly. There are games that ladies like to play, this we will make available to encourage more girls to participate in sports and encourage them. If you want to make a place women-friendly in sport, you must consider what we make the girls comfortable doing their sports. For example, the dimension or the length of male and female sports facilities are not the same so also the balls they use either for football, basketball and other sports. Also, the timing is considered.


At last year’s Youth Games in Ilorin, the FCT presented the youngest contingent. Are there plans to repeat same and also win more medals as we look forward to another Game?

What we are doing is to make sure that we don’t lose our athletes to other states. From our performance last year, we know that many states will now be moving around to poach our children. But we have reached out to the parents and told them to tell the children not to go anywhere especially our chess players. They are very young and intelligent. They are champions and are improving every day. Five of our handball girls have been given scholarship by the University of Ilorin and although there are possibilities that they may compete for Kwara the fact is, they are still our athletes and if they are still within the age for the games, we will like that they represent us. We also make sure that those who are here get regular training from the coaches and we are reaching out to the parents to make sure that the children don’t lose their skills so that when will have competition they will give their best.


What plans does the FCT Sports have ahead of the National Sports Festival?

We have been planning in the last five years for a festival which held last in 2012. We are waiting for a date to be fixed and be sure that the game will hold. And if it happens, we have athletes that can represent us very well. They are training and we are looking forward to the competition so that we can know we are in terms of preparation. If the games hold today, we will bring out the 5-year plan and put together and I know that it will bring the desired results.

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