Commitment is one of the hallmarks of a visionary. That, is a major quality that the Governor of Rivers state, Chief Nyesom Woke has displayed as he piloted the affairs of the state for about seven years now. Indeed, his NEW Vision mantra has left tremendous impression on the landscape of not only Rivers, but the South South region and Nigeria as a whole. The sports sector is one of the areas that the indefatigable governor has left his mark on the sands of time. In fact, he has shown a trait that smacks of Midas touch in sports development and promotion, ensuring that the state is one of the first destinations of choice in sporting considerations. Without any loud advertisement to his disposition towards sports sentimentality prior to becoming a governor, indication that sports would be on the front burner of his administration manifested in his choice of activities for his inauguration. Sports, particularly football was one of the major activities as national team icons and stars like Nwankwo Kanu, Victor Ikpeba, Adokiye Amiesimaka, Daniel Amokachi and others were brought to Port Harcourt to play and announce the incoming governor at the Sharks FC Stadium. Being a leader with clear vision, he knew that sports is a veritable tool to engage and empower the youth, especially, as there was angst in the land as a result of unfulfilled promises and indebtedness to state’s athletes and club sides. With an unmatched resolve, he saw to it that every indebtedness left behind by the previous administration was settled. Also, having noticed that the maintenance of two top football clubs, Sharks and Dolphins, campaigning in same league was an avoidable baggage that was breeding inefficiency and strain on the state’s purse, he moved to restructure the clubs for maximum result. Both clubs were collapsed into one, now known as Rivers United. Today, the club has been transformed into a serial contender for national honours and a force to be reckoned with in the domestic and contintal arena. At the moment, Rivers United are in pole position to bring the coveted NPFL’s 2021/22 Premier league season’s title home to the state. It is also to the credit of the administration that the state maintains other viable sports clubs, including Rivers Angels Football club and Rivers Hoopers Basketball Club, which have been consistent in chasing glory for the state within and outside the shores of the country. Perhaps, it is in sports infrastructure development that Governor Wike has astounded observers. Barely months in office in his first tenure, the abandoned football stadium of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex was given attention and made worthy of hosting local, national and international football matches. Recently, the main bowl and training pitches were regrassed and other facilities upgraded to the level that the venue serves as home ground for Rivers United’s Nigeria Professional Football League and CAF continental club engagements. The Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex, the venue used to host the 1988 National Sports Festival, which had been in a dilapidated state was rehabilitated and given a new lease of life. However, Wike’s flagship infrastructure, as far as sports development in the state is concerned could be said to be the magnificent and world class football academy, the Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt. It is a project conceived and delivered on schedule as promised by the governor. Described by many as an ultramodern institution that would have direct and momentous impact on grassroots sports development, the academy is designed to offer to Rivers and Nigerian children the platform to acquire knowledge and be exposed to international standards in sports skills, while combining them with regular academics. According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Real Madrid Football Academy, Barr Christopher Green, the institution bequeathed to the state by Wike can measure up to any of its kind anywhere in the world. It boasts excellent facilities that are aimed at weaning young talents through practical and theoretical impartation. Barr Green is of the opinion that any student that passed through the academy should be able to hold his own in the larger society by putting knowledge acquired to use. It is interesting to note that while the academy focuses primarily on football, basketball, other sports and regular academic work are given top attention. At different fora, former Commissioner for Sports in the state, Hon Boma Iyaye has lauded the vision behind the establishment of the academy and its potential impact on the people of the state and beyond. He, at one time declared that the legacy the governor is bequeathing to the state with the academy may not be fully appreciated at the moment but would be seen in time to come. He said that the governor has clearly thought of the future of the immediate generation and others to come in the state. At the moment, the academy is ready to take off after the completion of pending logistics. Wike, apart from investing considerably in infrastructure, has also done so well in promoting and hosting sports events and competitions. It is on record that several national and international competitions have been attracted to the state largely due to the profile and stance of the governor. Among events that have been held at the behest of the governor include the national and international wrestling championships, Africa Badminton Championships, Mini Marathon, national and international football matches. Additionally, the state has considerably partnered stakeholders to keep the golf and polo clubs ticking with events. Overall, Governor Wike has impacted the sports sector and taken development in the sector to the next level. His marks in the annals of history would certainly be indelible and hard to be surpassed.
By: Gabriel Nwanetanya
Mikel Donates Cash, Wheelchairs To Para – Soccer Teams
Former Super Eagles captain, John Obi Mikel has made a two million cash donation and five wheelchairs to two para-soccer teams in Lagos.
Mikel, who recently finished a talent hunt with his Back2Base project, extended his goodwill to the para-soccer teams who were wowed by the gesture of the Chelsea legend. The arrival of Mikel and his team led by Fadekemi Ahmed, CEO and Founder of Avianna & Harvey Entertainments at Ojo Street in the Obalende area of Lagos State, was greeted with wild jubilation as the fans jostled to catch a glimpse of one of Africa’s most-accomplished football stars.
After enjoying the thrilling encounter between the Oyingbo para-soccer team and their Lagos Island counterparts, Mikel rewarded each of the teams with N1m cash donation while he also gave three wheelchairs to the winning team and two to the losing side.
“This is a token to appreciate the unique talents they have and their resilience to be the best at what they do despite being physically challenged,” Mikel said.”I thoroughly enjoyed the game between the two teams and I am happy I can reciprocate by making the players smile also with the donations made.”
The two teams expressed profound gratitude to Mikel even as they described him as a shining example that should be emulated by others.
Basketball: Mixed Reactions Over Reversal Of International Ban
Following the decision by the Federal Government to reverse the two-year international ban placed on basketball, stakeholders have hailed the development while expressing concern over the inability to address the main issues affecting the sports in the country.
In a statement released last week and signed by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Ismaila Abubakar, the decision to reverse the ban was based on the appeal from concerned stakeholders, former Nigerian international basketball players and well-meaning Nigerians.
Abubakar stated that the decision was also based on the fruitful meeting between FIBA and Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare which he said produced common understanding in certain general areas with a commitment from the world basketball ruling body to explore and collaborate on enhancing relationships.
In addition, the apology letter from the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) board singed by Musa Kida to the President and Minister over the embarrassment with a pledge to set up a team to reconcile all contending parties in the basketball family within and outside the country necessitated the reversal.
Gbadegesin Olatona, who is the coordinator of the Youth Alive Basketball Community League, believed the decision by the government is necessary to save the future of the athletes.
“I am happy that the ban has been reversed especially considering the career of most of the players both within and outside Nigeria,” he said.” This is good for them to see the need for them to aim to represent Nigeria in international competitions.
“However, the issues that prompted the ban are yet to be addressed especially in terms of the structure of the sport.”
grow the sport at home and this is why there are still struggles in football.
“ But I believe we should have taken a cue from this and allowed the sport to go beyond any individual with proper structure in place for the sport to stand on its own,” he added.
Similarly, Abimbola Faniran, who is the founder of the Akofa Foundation , supported Olatona while calling for the abnormality in the NBBF Constitution to be addressed.
He offered: “I am happy with the reversal but it is yet Uhuru for the sport as the contending issues that caused the ban is still not yet addressed.
“Particularly the abnormality in the NBBF Constitution which stated that the President and Vice President can be chosen by a few people.
“So these issues must not be swept under the carpet while all stakeholders in the sport must be assembled to forger way forward for the sport,” Faniran noted.
Ex-Footballers’ Plot Against NFF Gets Boost
Ex-Nigeria internationals and Players’ Union which has been clamouring for change in the administration of football in the country appears close to realising its goal as the signs of victory look evident, even before the elective congress of the Nigeria Football Federation billed for September, 2022.
It is aware that to attain the desired change in the administration of football in the country, the constitution of the board of the Nigeria Football Federation has to change.
To change the way the board is at present constituted, former players and other stakeholders went to court to halt the elective congress of the NFF, insisting that the NFF statute must be amended to allow for more and equitable representation of all stakeholders.
They eventually secured an interlocutory injunction from a High Court in Bayelsa State which stopped any further step towards holding the congress until the case before it was decided.
The move by the concerned stakeholders which resulted in a court injunction was almost turning into an irony as it provided an alibi for the NFF board. “They(board members) wanted to hide under the injunction, delay the congress and ultimately delay the election which is expected to usher in a new board,” a source revealed, adding that the board members held a zoom meeting and perfected their plan to stay put till February 2023.
“They wanted to go to Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast in January next year. That is why they were indifferent to the court injunction that stopped the congress.”
Even more uncomfortable for the board was what one observer termed as “the insurgency” within the NFF structure which saw 28 state FA Chairmen, traditionally deemed to be lackeys to the board, revolt by passing a vote of no confidence in the NFF leadership.
“That was an additional headache to the NFF,” our source said under anonymity. More astonishing was the fact that the state FA chairmen signed the resolution by appending not only their signatures but had their passport pictures affixed to their names and signatures. This jolted the NFF leadership but they kept their plans under wraps as they had their plan to stay longer than their tenure.
The dissident FA Chairmen were having a field day as they insisted that a change was inevitable for Nigerian football to move forward.
Reading the mood of the NFF board members, the players’ association applied a master stroke when it petitioned the presidency, intimating the President of the discrete disposition of the NFF towards the September election.
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development reacted to the petition with a directive to the NFF to ensure that they don’t flout their own statutes and advised that the September election is held as scheduled.
“Their plan to hang on was bursted by President Buhari’s directive that they hold elections,” our source said, adding that “the court order under which they were hiding under will be vacated soon. I wonder where they will run to now.”
Apart from ensuring that the election is held, the President also directed that the NFF Statutes must be amended to accommodate other real football stakeholders who was either under represented or were not represented at all on the board.
We gathered that with President Buhari’s directive, the NFF has now been thrown off balance while the stakeholders will now have a say in football matters and be part of what happens next.
“For instance, they have reached an agreement that certain conditions must be respected before the elective congress. In legal terms it is called consent judgment,” our source said, even as he would not reveal the conditions although we gathered that it is about constitution of the board.
Given the new twist in the election saga, a member of the ex-footballers union, Harrison Jallah has confirmed that the process to vacate the court injunction was underway.
He said, “We are working on getting that order suspended or discontinued with completely, pending when the congress is held and the amendments we asked for are done. When we achieve that, then we can proceed to the elections. That is the position for now.”
Jallah continued, “There is a compromise now that we go and get the case out of the court which we are preparing to do now. We are looking at the whole of next week and I believe by the end of next week we will be through with that procedure.”
He further informed us what their petition to the presidency contained. “We informed that under the present statutes every member has equal status in the assembly but a particular member twerked the statute to suit his interest. For instance, there are 44 members in the congress and when you have 37 FA Chairmen, in every election they will have a majority. As I speak to you, they are 11 on the board out of 15 members. The other 4 are taken by the clubs that represent the leagues.”
Government’s subtle moves, we gathered were deliberate in order not to be seen as interfering in the internal affairs of the football governing. This, Jallah concurred. “All the government has done is simply telling football stakeholders, ‘no, we don’t want this under representation in the assembly to continue and the football family to go and resolve your differences. But in all you do, the September date for the election remains sacrosanct.”
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