Facilities are structures like halls, rooms, buildings, or services that are provided to facilitate the carrying out of a particular event or task. “Facilities”, as a word, when used in sports, may mean a stadium, sports’ arena, sports’ pavilion, and court, like tennis court, abula court, badminton court, traditional wrestling court or Ayo hall. By this definition, facilities usually include equipment. “Facilities” as a word, is usually in plural, while equipment sounds as singular or an uncountable noun because it is never added to suffix “equipment”. However, equipment may be the tools and materials used in carrying out the task at hand or the task to be carried out. Facilities are usually fixed e.g. a football field, a tennis court or an Ayo hall. Each of these is on a particular land, space, spot or location. It is not carried about. Equipment on the other hand may be carried-able, i.e. it can be moved. It is usually movable.
In Ayo, the facilities are the halls or rooms while the equipment is the Ayo Board with the seeds used in playing the game of Ayo. In between are the sitting equipment, such as chairs, tables, then whistle, stop watch and materials like penal cards, score sheets etc., services like photography, videoing and particularly the use of projector which was successfully introduced at Eko 2012 as experimented by Mallam Elias Yusuf to enable spectators and co-competitors to watch the players alive without interfering with the on-going game.
As “HISTORY” a subject that went on extinction in Nigeria before, or being on relegation before the current dispensation, has now been resuscitated and reinstated on the curriculum (by the current administration). It is good to go on the memory lane for our young ones and the new technical people that are handling our affairs in traditional sports at the National Sports Festival as a kind of mentoring for them, to let them know what happened in the past, i.e. updating them so that they would know how to handle the matter more appropriately. They will be able to have knowledge of the past so that they will be able to move from “known” to the (new) unknown with adequate preparations to make things better or smoother and secure more effective and efficient result. That’s the essence of having history as a subject in our school curriculum, and experience people in our group. Now let us go into history of Ayo facilities at the National Sports Festivals in Nigeria.
Ayo became a demonstration event at BENUE’96 through the National Association of Traditional Sports (NATS). Three other Traditional Sports that demonstrated at BENUE’96 under NATS were Abula, Dambe and Langa. That was the beginning of providing facilities for Ayo at the National Sports Festivals.
The facilities provided at Benue’96 were at Police Officers’ Mess, near the Makurdi Stadium. It was not a large facility but it was quite high sounding and decent. Not many members of the public came to watch the game of Ayo demonstrated; but some officials especially those close to Ayo playing in Benue State and those charged with demonstration of Ayo were handy to do the official demonstration of Ayo game. The demonstration also served as an opportunity to lay the foundation for National rules and regulations on Ayo. The National rules on Ayo were fashioned out at Benue’96. There were contradictions in the rules when used at Imo’98, which necessitated the rules being harmonized at the National Coaching Clinic held at the National Stadium (New Gymnasium) Surulere, Lagos in 2000, before Bauchi 2000 where all contradictory rules in Ayo were a thing of the past.
The facilities of Ayo at Imo’98 were make-shift. This was because Imo State was originally planning for Abula only. It was at the pre-festival facilities monitoring meeting that the organizers were made to know that Abula was one of the sports in Traditional Sports Association. The make shift facilities was in canopies arranged beside Abula court at the Dan Ayanwu Stadium, Owerri. It was a functional facility used in bringing Ayo to the level of scoring event at the 11th National Sports Festival tagged IMO’98.
At BAUCHI 2000, Ayo was played in one of the arms of the buildings of the games Village. It was beside the Boxing arena. It was high sounding too but highly disturbed by the turbulent arena of boxers. It was frequently invaded by displeased boxers and the ‘roars’ from the boxing room. In fact the teargas that was detonated at the riotous boxing ring did not differentiate that the next neighbor of the boxing arena were sedentary and cool Ayo players who needed a serene atmosphere for a peak performance. However Ayo was lucky that the number of competitors were not as many as in very recent festivals as they only competed for 3 gold medals as opposed to EDO 2002 where 5 gold medals were competed for in Ayo.
At EDO 2002, Ayo had a very cool arena. In fact, Ayo seemed to be the most favored in getting good facilities, beating Abula to the second position as Abula was played in a half-refurbished Tennis court converted to Abula court for that purpose. Ayo was played in a highly refurbished school hall. It was moderate sounding, very decent and far away from the maddening crowd, but the lightening was inadequate.
Sandwiched between EDO 2002 and ABUJA 2004, national Sports Festivals was the big one, the 8th All Africa Games: ABUJA 2003, where Ayo participated as a demonstration event. It is good and very relevant to mention that Ayo was staged at a very high sounding and practically excellent facilities. It was at NICON NOGA Hilton Hotel. It was not far from boxers but at a higher floor from the boxers. It was fine, quite cool, good lightening, good seats and arrangement. Not many visitors came but valued press men and women from various corners of the world, including Nigeria Press visited the place with some tourists.
We shall continue with the part two of this topic.
Mallam Elias Yusuf