By Victor Okoye
The Association of Former Female Athletes of Nigeria (AFFAN), says mentorship of young female athletes in the country is its top priority.
Esther Aluko, the association’s President, gave this indication in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sidelines of an Awards night, organised by AFFAN to honour former female athletes of the 60s and 70s on Saturday in Abuja.
Aluko noted that AFFAN was established in response to the yearnings of hundreds of former female athletes who had distinguished themselves in various spheres of life.
“We needed a platform through which we could come together as a body and give back to the society that gave us the platform in the first place, to be successful in life through sport participation.
“AFFAN is passionate about contributing to the peace and development of our nation by serving as role models, using our wealth of experience and exposure as former female athletes and as mothers.
“We want to positively impact the future leaders of our nation through sports participation at the primary and secondary school levels.
“We also discover and assist in nurturing future star athletes in schools and inculcate values that will make them useful to themselves and the society at large,” she said.
Aluko stressed that AFFAN was committed to sparking the interest of young girls in sports and teaching them to effectively combine sports and education.
“We help them to take advantage of the benefits of sports participation through coaching clinics, career seminars, sports workshops and competitions.
“Our strength lies in the spread of our members across the country; and with a little support and encouragement from the government, sports loving organisations and individuals,” she said.
She added that AFFAN was also committed to ensuring that the neglect of ex-athletes would soon become a thing of the past.
She said the association was poised to meaningfully engage them to do what they know how to do within their domain.
The president called on well-meaning Nigerians, relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies, philanthropists, private and corporate organisations to come on board and partner with AFFAN.
“This is so as to fulfill some of our objectives such as: Construction and upgrading of schools’ sport facilities.
“Donation of sports equipment, talent identification programmes, training and retraining of schools’ sport coaches and teachers as well as the provision of scholarships to potential athletes,” she said.
NAN reports that some of the athletes recognised at the awards night were those who had done the country proud in their various sports in the 60s and 70s.
This was when there were only eight sports Associations, namely Athletics, Badminton, Swimming, Handball, Basketball, Volleyball, Hockey and Table Tennis.
The president explained that these group of special athletes had not been recognised and honoured by any organisation in the country.
“AFFAN believes that these sport ambassadors of the 60s and 70s richly deserve to be honoured; after all a line in our National Anthem states that “the labour of our hero’s past shall never be in vain.”
“It is for this reason that our Association decided to recognise and honour these unsung heros who had at various times in the 60s and 70s made the country proud through their outstanding sport performances.
“Though some of them are now deceased, we deem it fit to celebrate and put smiles on the faces of those who are still alive,” she said.
No fewer than 147 athletes were honoured during the Awards night, including 127 living and 20 deceased persons respectively.
The list include; Aluko (Handball), Anthonia Bamidele (Hockey), Essien Anwan (Volleyball), Gloria Ayanjala (Athletics), Modupe Oshikoya (Track and Field), Mary Akinkuowo (Athletics), Utitofon Nkantah (Athletics), Olufunke Ortoho (Swimming, Badminton and Squash).
Others include; Nnena Ekezie (Handball), Ngozi Mammah (Swimming), Grace Asagba (Badminton), Kate Oyoyo (Volleyball), Marian Donald (Netball, Handball and Basketball), Margareth Nzombato (Basketball), Juliet Abiose (Netball, Handball and Basketball).
The rest are; Joy Oliwe (Handball), Marhereth Porbeni (Basketball), Patricia Odion (Basketball), Roseline Adiole (Track and field), Rabi Egujie (Volleyball), Elizabeth Adada (Hockey), Udogu Virginia (Basketball), Bukky George (Badminton), Enofe Tinuke (Swimming), amongst others. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Vincent Obi