FILE PHOTO: A cross section of participants at a past edition of the National Sports Festival (NSF) in Lagos.

Team Lagos athletes on Tuesday in Lagos condemned the postponement of the 20th National Sports Festival billed to flag off in Benin City, Edo State, this weekend.

When contacted, some of the athletes training at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos wore long faces and refused to speak much on the matter.

Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development had issued a statement that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the postponement.

The statement said: “President Mohammadu Buhari approves the postponement of the National Sports Festival Edo 2020 as a precautionary move against COVID-19 spread.

“Following the briefing from myself and the health Minister.

“Following the briefing of Mr. President from myself and the Minister of State for Health on COVID 19, Mr. President approved the immediate postponement of Edo Sports festival to a future date.”

Team Lagos athletes on hearing about the postponement quickly dispersed to their various camping hostels, while some who were unhappy voiced their anger over it.

An athlete, Bose said the postponement was not necessary since there was no reported case of the deadly COVID-19 among the athletes, adding that there was no report yet of a foreign-based athlete.

“Up till now, I only heard of two cases in Nigeria or maybe the one this morning as the third one. What pained me most are the efforts that we have put into the training.

“For us, who bears the cost? After all, the (football) league is still on. So, why cancel the NSF which everybody has been preparing for?’’ she queried.

A para-table tennis player, Dupe, said she was sad about the development, adding that it would lower the enthusiasm and spirit of many players towards the NSF.

“I am not happy at all. I just think someone will say that it is a joke. Why did they wait till now to postpone the Festival, just three days left to the arrival?

“Some of us are already rounding up training, looking forward to Friday when we would have departed?’’ she stated.

The Chairman, Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) in Lagos State, Debo Oshundun, said the postponement could not have happened if there had not been wide consultation.

“I think the Federal Government would have arrived at the postponement after wide consultation because it has a lot of implications.

“The government would have considered all options before it took the step because it is a huge sacrifice after all the preparations by all the stakeholders.

“I think the postponement will not be long because it is not an outright cancellation as many will think,’’ he said.

The State Assistant Secretary SWAN and Media Officer of Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF), Afolabi Oni, described the 20th NSF postponement as a needless pressing of a panic button.

“I think the postponement is like just pressing the panic button and putting the cart before the horse.

“The government is talking about taking precautionary steps, while there were no efforts to block ways and avenues which this COVID-19 can come to Nigeria.

“We still have our airports, land borders and seaports open. Also, we still have eateries, churches, mosques open and public gatherings, so why postpone the sports festival?

“We should have started where other countries started from, like banning all air travels from the high-risk countries,’’ he said.

Oni said the postponement had come with a high cost which would be borne by the athletes and the participating states.

“We are talking about the athletes and their preparations and the money spent on camping.

“Also, the state would have spent a lot on the athletes. So, who will bear the cost?’’ he asked.