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Calls for supporting Niger taekwondo after Rio Olympic success

NIAMEY Niger (Xinhua) -- Niger has again demonstrated its prowess in taekwondo after winning a silver medal in the men’s over-80 kilogram taekwondo in the just concluded Rio Olympics, but its pool of young talents, however, is facing a lack of state support.

The silver medal won by Abdoulrazak Issoufou Alfaga, 21, was the country’s second Olympics medal after the medal won by boxer Issaka Dabore during the 1972 Munich Games.

Taekwondo that has helped to cement the country’s name in the Olympic history, is however one of the least supported games in Niger.

The sport, initially not practised by many Nigeriens, began to gain popularity from 1983 after the arrival of a South Korean professional, Master Show Young.

Today, taekwondo clubs are scattered all over Niger. In the capital Niamey alone, there are about 100 clubs, with the most popular one being "Club Show" that was named after the taekwondo pioneer in Niger.

Despite the growing number of youths interested in playing taekwondo, sports’ enthusiasts continued to criticize the government’s negligible support.

The government’s support is limited to sending contestants to major competitions and tournaments, and the national federation received little support from the Nigerien Sports Committee (COSNI), they argued.

In the opinion of professional taekwondo players in Niger, "those who dream of getting expert training outside the country so that they can become great stars in the game, should only count on their own efforts."

So when COSNI negotiated for a scholarship for the young Issoufou Alfaga to go for training in Germany in preparation for the Rio Games, he did not hesitate to take up the chance.

However, the player and COSNI have been left with a bill of 95,000 euros for the training undertaken at the Taekwondo Competence Center (TCC) in Friedrichshafen, near Munich.

According to Chamsou Tidjani, a black belt and a national and international taekwondo champion, several of his friends sent for training outside the country always return to the country sooner due to lack of funding.

It is also common for Nigeriens to participate in international taekwondo competitions on behalf of their country, using their own resources.

That was the case with the young Chamsou, who recently represented his country in a global competition in Benin, without getting financial support from his country.

"I won the competition against nine other countries including Nigeria that had five teams, yet I did not even eat on the day of the competition and I did not have money," he complained.

"This deplorable situation is the daily treatment that many of our fighters participating in international taekwondo competitions on behalf of Niger are subjected to," the national taekwondo coach, Tidjani said.

This situation continues despite the fact that the country is the envy of many in the sub-region and the continent in the taekwondo sport.

Niger won a silver medal in the first Ouagadougou international tour held in 2011, won the taekwondo medal during the 2015 All African Games and was victorious during competitions this year in Egypt and Belgium.

With the latest silver medal won by Alfaga, Niger improved its general ranking during the Rio 2016 games, coming at position 69 globally.

On the African continent, Niger claimed the sixth position behind great sporting nations like Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia.

Following the Rio 2016 Games, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou expressed satisfaction with Alfaga’s performance and promised to support the promotion of taekwondo in the country.

According to him, Alfaga’s victory should be an inspiration to all Nigerien youths.

He instructed government ministries to continue supporting Alfaga so that he can reinforce his capacities to win a gold medal in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.



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