Crisis erupted on Wednesday at the ongoing Zonal Elimination Competition of the National Youth Games in Abeokuta, Ogun State as many state officials protested mass disqualification of their athletes.
Newsflagship gathered that, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) had mandated all participating states to present the athletes’ birth certificates, traveling passports and Primary school leaving certificates as criteria for the screening to authenticate the athletes are U-15.
It was gathered that, majority of the athletes who submitted the required documents were disqualified during the screening exercise held at the Alake Sports Centre, in Abeokuta for unknown reasons.
Many of the state coaches who spoke with Newsflagship expressed displeasure over the screening exercise, describing it as “unfortunate and barbaric”.
They alleged political manipulation of the screening committee to favour some states athletes, calling for independent body to supervise the screening exercise.
According to Lagos State Basketball Head Coach, Mr. Olayinka Oyewunmi, many of the screening committee members are not qualified to supervise the exercise.
Coach Olayinka maintained that, the state’s athletes are actually under 15 with their original birth certificates and first leaving school results provided.
He said, “Honestly speaking, I’m not happy with the situation here. We have evidence that proves that our athletes are real under 15. Lagos State does not cheat in under age games, any coach that does that in Lagos will have his job on the line.
“The criteria for the screening is birth certificate, traveling documents and primary six school certificate to authenticate their real age, but we are surprised that many of our players were disqualified for reasons yet unknown.
“You can imagine in Basketball game, they disqualified eight of our players for height, how can you play basketball without being tall? This tells you that the screening committee lacks understanding of the games, and with what we have seen here today, we have no choice than to pull out from the competition and return to Lagos”.
Also speaking, the Oyo State Handball coach, Mr. Omoloye Ogundiran accused the screening committee for being financially manipulated to promote some athletes.
He stated that, “What we are seeing here is disheartening. These players are secondary school students. There is corruption in the country. Many of these coaches have trained the athletes for years, but when they get opportunity to present any player at national level, they will bribe the screening committee to pick their players.”
A visibly angry 11year-old Opeyemi George from Ogun State who was disqualified from participating in Volleyball for alleged over age, could not hold back his tears.
Opeyemi maintained that, “they said I’m not qualified that I am over 15 and I am 11year old. I’m a JSS 2 student of Igboore High school in Abeokuta. I told them, I’m just 11year-old and they sent me out”.
In his reaction, the Chairman, Screening Committee, Mr. Bamidele Adesanya Bello admitted that, there was human error in the screening exercise, appealing to the affected athletes to maintain decorum and seek redress where necessary.
Mr. Bamidele noted that, the criteria for the screening exercise was the birth certificate and first school leaving certificate of the athletes, but pointed out that, many of the documents submitted by the coaches were ‘doctored’.
“I want to make something clear, there is no human perfection anywhere. The National Youth Games is under 15 and the National Sports Commission will not condone any over age.
“The aim is to develop talent, but we told them to bring birth certificate and primary school results of these athletes, but what they brought to the screening are manipulated or doctored birth certificate from National Population Commission.
“As a father, I can tell real age of a student mere looking at the face. There’s nothing we can do than to disqualify them, but we shall meet at the technical committee to see ways of accommodating everybody.