Dec. 9, 2022

Stakeholders in the sports industry have called for proactive measures, using technology, to educate and empower young people in the industry to keep their aspirations alive and keep them safe from exploitation.
The stakeholders spoke at the 2022 Vyootopia Mission89 Africa Digital Sports Conference, held in Lagos, organised by Folio Media Group and Mission89.
The event had the theme: ‘’Adopting New Technologies in Digital Sports and Increasing Opportunities for African Youth in the Sport Industry’’.
Speaking, the Director, Mission89 Africa, May Ikeora, said that stakeholders including parents had a huge role in leveraging technology as a form of education to inform young people in the industry.
Ikeora noted that technology could be used as a tool to actually stop traffickers from recruiting young people.
‘’This is crucial because traffickers use technology and young people as well use it; technology is more enhanced when you talk about the business of sports, but when it comes to safeguarding, it is missing.
‘’Today we are talking e-gaming; e-gaming is becoming a thing; the Olympic community is now thinking that we need to start paying attention to e-gaming.
‘’So, we have to be part of that conversation; we are starting now to say e-gaming is great and we should increase the prospects of young people; but are we ensuring that they are safe while doing that?
‘’We want to use technology through sports to increase young people’s prospects, but at the same time safeguard them to make sure online is safe for both young people and children,‘’ she said.
Also, a football agent, Francis Okufi, who described the sport industry in Nigeria as a billion dollar industry and huge potential, urged the government and individuals to tap into it.
Okufi, who is the Director, Ananiah Sports Agency, also called on Nigerians to start looking inward and ensure that the right infrastructure were in place and political will.
‘’We are trying to change the narrative surrounding football and other sports in Nigeria; I noticed that football brings unity among Nigerians and that is what my company is trying to do, which is to start football at the grassroots level.
‘’There is so much money that can be generated; there is so much legacy that can be left; and there are so many people, whose futures are just being wasted away. If we can invest in the industry, Europe will be a thing of the past.
‘’It is time that we saw the potential in Nigeria; we have everything here; we have the population, and mineral resources. We do not need to go abroad; as much as all the suffering is, we still see people happy and smiling,‘’ he said.
In his remarks, another stakeholder in the industry, Ricky Weir, said that technology could be used as a medium to give people access to the right information as opposed to the wrong information.
Weir is the Founder, Jersey 2 Africa 4 Football.
‘’On the creative sides of technology, how definitely is an education tool, I feel that the coaches are a massive part of this in terms of influencing young boys and girls and educating them in being aware of what I feel the responsibilities are as a coach.
‘’That goes way beyond just nurturing young talents; it is educating them socially, understanding them socially, educating them, most importantly, psychologically in terms of what they are putting in and also out of their heads based on what their hearing and of course.
‘’Also, if those kids who are coming to sessions two or three times a week are hearing the same things from the coach, it is going to make them less likely to be vulnerable to some random person coming online and telling something they then start to believe,‘’ Weir said.
Also, a footballer, Mikel John-Obi, said that he was in support of the event to ensure young people were protected from human trafficking in football.
John-Obi said, ‘’We are trying to do something special to see how we can take care of our young people and give them a future; trying to create a path for them in sports or whatever they choose to do.‘’


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