The YSM Abuja School Games made its debut in 2019, and the memory, the thrills and the excitements generated during the maiden edition has continued to linger in the minds of every participants, spectators and organizers alike. The five day event saw secondary pupils exposed to first class Game, organized at the biggest stage of Abuja sporting facility, the Moshood Abiola stadium.
The opening ceremony actually did set the tune for what was going to be an exciting Game with the participating schools turning up in their large numbers. There were dignitaries from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, members of the diplomatic corps and other top former Athletes. The ceremony was very colorful; there were guest artiste from far and near who treated the audience to entertaining moments. And the opening ceremony ended with the traditional parade by the participating schools.
It was first in a kind Games for the secondary school pupils in the Federal Capital Territory who hitherto had never had the opportunity to compete at such level. The highest many of them had participated in was their schools inter-house sports Games and most regrettably is the fact that Abuja is well known with hosting inter schools games which indeed gave credence to the coming of the YSM Abuja School Games.
The students had fun, made new friends, and competed vigorously to be noticed by scouts who besieged the place for talents. And while the Games lasted, they were already looking forward to the next edition with excitement. But little did they know that the Games would never have held had the initiator and coordinator, Olayinka Suleiman caved-in in the face of all the challenges faced while putting it together. She was confronted with countless challenges that were enough to kill her interest, but she weathered every storm, braced every odd, faced every challenge and eventually got the Game going.
She was rejected by several persons who never believed in the reality of the project. Most of the corporate bodies she approached were skeptical about its success and so refused to put their funds into it, a situation that forced the postponement of the Games on several occasions, but Olayinka never gave up.
Yinka was encouraged to go ahead with the Games with the little fund at her disposal and with support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports who made the facilities at the Moshood Abiola stadium available to her, and most importantly, with the sporting Federation assuring her of their technical assistance. She also received moral supports from well-wishers, Patrons and partner organisations who were encouraged by her doggedness, tenacity, resilience and commitment to seeing the Games come to life.
One of such God sent helper was Senator Ned Nwoko who actually did revealed another side of his person that most people never knew, his love and commitment to grassroots programs like the YSM Abuja School Games. He came into the scene when the Game had begun and helped in no small way to ensured that it was successfully concluded. The Delta state born philanthropist surprised even the Organizers when he showed up at the closing ceremony with several of his foreign friends. Their presence indeed added another twist and colour to the ceremony, and the amiable philanthropist used the opportunity of the occasion to address the students on the need for them to take sports as serious as their education, revealing that opportunity abound for the talented once among them.
The attendance of Ned Nwoko at the closing spoke volume taking into consideration that Nigeria is a country where the philanthropists and the corporate bodies shy away from grassroots program, preferring only to associate with already established Games and superstars. He presented a different impression to the organizers, showing that there are still few who delight in contributing to the discovering of talent at the grassroots. With his role at the Games, Ned has really sent a big message to other philanthropist in the country on the need for them to come on board and support sports at the grassroots level. Regrettably, research has revealed that Nigeria is really lacking in support at the grassroots level and the more the likes of Ned emerge in the scene and support the game at that level the better it will be for sports development in Nigeria.
While hoping that other Nigerian Philanthropists jump on board in making Games like the YSM Abuja School Games and several others thrive it is pertinent to say that with continuous support from the likes of Ned Nwoko and other well-wishers the YSM school Games surely do have a future, and the students would have a continuous platform to showcase their God given talents.
By Martin Odiete, Abuja