By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com Nigeria
The President of Nigeria Cricket Federation, Professor Yahaya Ukwenya said that after the success of the Nigerian Under 19 national side, known as the Yellow Greens, the next step as far as building on the success is concerned is to take cricket to schools across the country.
Ukwenya while speaking from Kaduna said that this is important for the future of cricket in Nigeria.
“We are the defending Under 19 Champions, so we were not supposed to go for Division Two this year. It could have been next year. What we were trying to do was to concentrate more on our grassroots programs. We decided that it was about time we invest heavily in grassroots development, particularly with school cricket. One of the major opportunities for Nigeria to excel in sports and cricket particularly is to concentrate on the school students because we have one of the largest populations of children in school-age in the world. This is the building block we need to work on. We felt that we needed to expand the process that started from the colonial times where a number of government institutions from the colonial periods were introduced to cricket and were playing cricket. What we want is to take this process to as many schools, if not all the schools in this country. This was a massive project and we have already made arrangements. We needed some equipment from India to kick start the program, but with the COVID-19 lockdown, factories were closed in India which affected our arrangement. We are still anticipating that if we have three months before the end of the year, we want to start the program because it is important for the future of the game.
The Nigerian Under 19 Cricket team won the last African Cricket tournament which qualified the side for their first ICC U19 World Cup in South Africa where they finished in the overall 15th position out of 16 competing countries.
Prof. Ukwenya said that the cricket team has some tournament at hand which would have helped the team before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have quite a lot of plans for 2020. Having gone through a number of competitions in 2019, we were supposed to have less international competitions in 2020. Although there were some very important ones like the African Cricket Tournament and the World Cup Qualifiers. That would have helped the team.” He said.
Nigeria is emerging as one of the most improved cricket team in Africa based on the performance of the U19 team and will hope such feat will lead to success at the senior level in the future so that the country can raise shoulders among countries like South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, England, West Indies and other top cricket teams in the world.
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