Nigeria's Minister of Youth & Sports Development

The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, on Saturday in Abuja said the ministry would ensure cricket’s return to the National Sports Festival (NSF).

Dare gave the assurance during the closing ceremony of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 Men’s World Cup Africa Division Two Qualifiers.

“It is necessary for cricket to be among the events of the NSF.

“With all I have seen today (Saturday), there’s a clear justification to have cricket back. I will start that conversation with the Delta Governor and the (state’s) Sports Commission.

“We will meet and see what we can do, for what they have done and for the effort of these young athletes.

“We are in the global map of cricket,” he said.

The minister commended the President of Nigeria Cricket Federation, Uyi Akpata, and the federation’s board for hosting the qualifiers.

“A lot of credit goes to the President and the NCF board. We have seen how they’ve leveraged on the partnership with the ICC facilities.

“Infrastructure is key to sports, and with the pitches we have, we are next after South Africa in terms of standard,” he said.

Dare noted that the Nigerian team had a good performance in their final game.

“With the performance of these under-19 boys, the future is bright for them. I am proud of them even though they lost today. But I know we’ve qualified.

“We did not win today but we still win because we are still in the race and when they show up again in March we will beat Kenya,” the minister said.

While speaking, Akpata said the NCF would receive a new coach from Kenya who would be working with the Nigerian team’s technical crew.

He said the coach would help to reinforce the team ahead of the division one, noting that the team payed well but we’re done in by hard luck against Kenya.

“Hard luck is part of life. From all I have seen, I am very hopeful that we will qualify for the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.

“But we have to put things in place to make sure that the team will come back stronger and better ahead of the division one.

“Even though we lost the final match, the good thing is that we have qualified for division one which was our target,” Akpata said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Kenya defeated Nigeria by 11 runs to win the final match of the qualifiers.

The third-place match between Malawi and Sierra Leone did not take place due to the condition of the pitch.

Sierra Leone then finished in third-place based on ICC rankings.

NAN reports that the three countries have thus qualified for the division one scheduled for March next year.

The ICC Under-19 Men’s World Cup Africa Division Two Qualifiers was played from Sept. 30 to Saturday at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja.