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Exclusive: Igali to Pres. Tinubu: Increase funding for sports for Nigeria’s global dominance

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The President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali, has called on President Bola Tinubu to increase funding for Nigerian sports to accelerate its development.

The Olympian, who won Canada’s first ever Olympic gold medal in wrestling at the 2000 Summer Olympics, made this call in an exclusive interview with a Persecondnews correspondent in Accra on Monday, after an impressive outing by Nigerian wrestlers on Sunday, winning five gold medals.

Team Nigeria’s excellent performance on day three of the 13th All African Games on Sunday lifted them to fourth on the medal table, winning seven gold, seven silver and 13 bronze, totaling 26 medals.

PSN: What was the motivation behind the scenes that triggered Nigeria’s dominance in wrestling on Sunday?

Igali: “The athletes are very driven; they have been training all year round; they are patriots of the highest level possible; they were inspired by their burning desire to make Nigeria proud, and that was why we witnessed yesterday.

“As you are aware, we are also using these games to prepare for the Olympics qualifier this weekend in Egypt. We are hoping we can take this momentum to Alexandra so that we can qualify for the Paris Olympics in 2024.

“Right now, my focus has shifted from the medals won to getting the needed funds to take the Nigeria contingent to Egypt.”

PSN: What are your expectations from President Tinubu after Nigeria’s medal rush at the 13th All African Games?

Igali: “My appeal to Mr. President is not just for the wrestlers but for all athletes in Accra representing the country.

“The Super Eagles players were heavily rewarded for their exploits at the Africa Cup of Nations. They earned a staggering $10 million from their group-stage journey to the final. Despite the fact that these players are millionaires in dollars, they were gifted houses, land, and national honour.

“I am also advocating that the same measure be replicated for Team Nigeria in Accra. Most of the athletes earn as little as N50,000 monthly; they have won gold, silver, and bronze; they deserve the presidential package also.”

PSN: How do we sustain Nigeria’s wrestling dominance on the continent?

Igali: “We don’t have a system in place to groom athletes; what we practice is to release funds for only competition, so because of a lack of funding, we concentrate our resources on just a few athletes.

“As you can see, we just have a few athletes to take over from the present generation.

“In other climes that are serious in sport, every two years they are budgeted to the federation. This will help in the Federation’s planning and aid in the development of sport from the grassroots to the national level.

“Most athletes representing Nigeria don’t get the opportunity to compete at the junior level; the only chance they get most of the time is to represent Nigeria at the senior level, which is not in line with global best practices in the systematic development of athletes.

“The dominance of Nigeria in continental wrestling is tied to funding; until the government is ready to sponsor and fund federations, we will continue to wallow where we are.

PSN: What is your message to the Nigerian President concerning the development of sports in Nigeria?

Igali: “Every federation needs direct funding from the government, and passionate people should take over the affairs of various federations so they can have a national sporting blueprint and program that should cover the short-term, medium-term, and long-term.

“The President should put machinery in place immediately ahead of Nigeria’s participation at the Olympics in 2028 and 2032. If we have this kind of preparation and mindset, we will go toe to toe with any country, not just in Africa but in the world.”

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