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Commonwealth Games not a jamboree – sports ministry tells Omidiran

Dalung and sports ministry officials with members of the House Committee on Sport

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has dismissed allegations of exclusion, marginalisation and gender inequality leveled against it by parliamentarian Ayo Omidiran.

The House Committee on Sports member accused the Ministry of excluding veteran tennis players Funke Oshnaike and Offiong Edem from the Commonwealth Games bound team, threatening to carry placards in protest of their exclusion.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports however said it was determined to select players based on performance and comparative advantage and not based on qualification, as alleged by Omidiran, because there were no trials.

According to the Director, Federation of Elite Athletes Department, Mrs Tayo Oreweme, the National Sports Federations nominated athletes for the games and not the Ministry.

“Four slots were allocated to Table tennis based on their performance in the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where they went with 5 male and 5 female players and came back with only 1 bronze in the team events.

“The Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) chose who will represent the country. They chose 4 male players based on their current performance. Entries were based on what the Federations wanted. They wanted a complete male team of 5 players and we had to do elimination by substitution thereby dropping one from Athletics to complete a full table tennis squad. The President of the Table Tennis Federation has confirmed that the male team will get him medals so we should give him the benefit of doubt and allow him to choose his team”.

President of the Table Tennis Federation, Tikon Ishiaku however threw more light on how the federation decided on their representation at the games.

“It is very unfortunate that an athlete, because of the desperation of the allowance she wants to collect, will go about instigating people and whipping up sentiments. Going to the Commonwealth Games is not by qualification. It is the Federations that will select the teams that will give them medals. I sat down with the board members and technical committee and I asked  how we can go all the way to Australia with this allocation and make an impact. We decided that if we will go with 4 male players, we will be able to compete in the singles, doubles and team events but if we take 2 male and 2 female, we will only take part in the singles and that will be that.

“We have looked at the profile of all our players both at home and abroad. Aruna Quadri, Segun Toriola, Jide Omotayo and Bode Abiodun are all doing very well and they are all training in Europe. If we look at the present status of our women, Funke is number 5. We just came back from the top 16 in Nairobi and we just don’t want to compete in the Singles event and come back.

“All the Presidents of the 10 participating federations at the Commonwealth Games were invited to a meeting with the Hon Minister to defend the athletes we were taking to the games. These are the players we can vouch for. There is no gender issue attached to this. Players were picked based on allocation and strength. It is the exclusive prerogative of the federation to come up with a team that can give them medals in Gold Coast.”

Nigeria will be represented by 90 athletes comprising 38 female and 52 male and 43 team officials.