Haji To Defend Okpekpe 10km Road Race
Ethiopia’s Yasin Haji is seeking to make history as the first man to successfully defend the Okpekpe international 10km Road Race title. The 27-year-old has arrived in Lagos for Saturday’s race in Okekpe, Edo State.
Haji became the third, bonafide Ethiopian man to win the Okpekpe race title when he ran 29:05, the third fastest winning time in race history, to win the title in 2022.
Teshome Mekonen, who ran 28.35 in 2014 to set the race record, was the first Ethiopian to win the men’s race, while Leule Gebrselassie (29:28) became the second to win three years later. Haji, who raced to a 27:00 lifetime best in the event last year in Lille, has returned to form at the right time.
The Ethiopian clocked 27:20 at the end of last month at the adizero Road to Records, Adi-Dassler-Straße 1 in Herzogenaurach, Germany to send a message to his countryman, Mekonen that he is returning to Okpekpe to break the course record and make history.
The stage will not be for Haji alone, as a certain Kenyan, Daniel Simiu Ebenyo, will not only be seeking to return Kenya to the podium as Okpekpe race champion, but also challenge Mekonen’s 28.35 course record.
Sports: Building On Wike’s Footprints
Eight years ago, at the inception of the administration of the just concluded government of Chief Nyesom Wike, the signs were clear that sports was going to be one of the cardinal focus of his tenure. From his inauguration activities to the main business of governance,both in the first and second tenure, sporting programmes were given ample representation.
Thus, the place of sports was clearly visible in the NEW vision of the administration, as it tried to reinvent, restructure,rebrand and thrust the state to the fore and as destination of choice in business, economy, recreation and tourism.
According to one of the Commissioners of Sports, that helped implement Wike’s vision in the sector, Hon. Boma Iyaye, the government of Wike saw and tried to use sports as a veritable tool of engagement and empowerment for the teeming youth of the state and beyond, to have the opportunity and platform for livelihood and better life.
That is why the government spared no expenses in providing world class sports infrastructure, promoting and sponsorship of sports competitions and rewarding hardwork and achievement.
It is on record that one of the first critical steps the government took to announce its intention in the sector was the collapsing of the two state owned football clubs, Sharks and Dolphins into one, Rivers United FC for viability and better performance. Since then, Rivers United have gone from strength to strength, winning domestic title and effectively flying the country’s flag in continental club competitions.
In doing these, the club enjoyed tremendous financial and moral support from the ebullient governor of the state. Today, Rivers United remains one the top clubs in Nigeria, known for consistency and results.
In addition to the exploits of Rivers United, it is to the credit of government that the state became one of the few in Africa to host the entire continent in wrestling and badminton competitions. For about one week, African wrestlers gathered at the refurbished Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex for the Africa Wrestling Championship, AWC during Wike’s first tenure. The venue was to later play host to the creme de la creme of Nigerian badminton players for the National Badminton Championship.
There was also synergy with sports stakeholders, especially, sports journalists, as the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN found a willing partner in the state government, holding most of its activities in the state, via government’s sponsorship of its events. Worthy of mention was the association’s Full Council Meeting of 2015, adjudged to be the best organized in quality and content in the history of the association.
All these commitment and demonstrable interest in sports development earned the Rivers State governor the award of Power of Sports, POS, Africa, the first of its kind in the continent.
Perhaps, the flagship of the administration’s sports project bequeathed to the state and posterity is the Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt, established by the government in consultation with the Real Madrid Football Club, Spain. The academy, conceived and built by Wike did not only try to replicate the structure of its mother institution in Spain, there was deliberate effort to equip the institution with likewise world class facilities that are as good as any in the world. Even would-be handlers, coaches and instructors at the facility were taken to Spain for first-hand training and experience from the mother institution.
Describing the facility, the then Special Adviser, SA to the Governor on Real Madrid Academy, Barr. Christopher Green said that the academy is a world class facility that would produce world class athletes for the state and country. It also demonstrates Governor Wike’s vision to providing a platform that would give Rivers youth and indeed Nigerians at the grassroots the opportunity to explore their talents and be the best they can be.
According to Barr. Green, the academy is uniquely set up to provide sports and academic tutorials side by side, so that those who could not make it through sports could toe the academic path and vice versa.
To former Commissioner for Sports, Hon. Iyaye, the academy remains an indelible footprint and an endowment by Wike to the people of the state, which benefit may not be appreciated fully at the moment but in the near future.
Assessing the strides of the immediate past administration in sports, the President of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, Sir Honour Sirawoo noted the governor’s deliberate focus in using sports to redirect the energy of the youth to worthwhile venture. He believes that the administration worked consciously to revive the sector, make it attractive and rewarding to the young people, who ordinarily would have been engaged in societal vices.
“I think that Governor Wike really understood the importance of sports, its power and role in changing the society. Indeed, he understood that sports has gone beyond a recreational thing to becoming a huge economic, political and social tool. He worked hard to employ it to maximum effect,” he stated.
Speaking with Tidesports in an interview, the Head coach of De Kings International FA of Port Harcourt, Okpaleke King commended Bar Nyesom Wike for his developmental strides in the sporting industry in Rivers State.
According to him, since his assumption of office, he has sponsored numerous sporting activities in the state which earned him world-wide recognition.
” For me, Governor Nyesom Wike tried his best in the development of sports in the state but the incoming governor needs to do more because government is a continuous process.
” Look at the Rivers State Real Madrid football academy.
” Look at the level of Rivers United FC today winning the league and even play up to the quarter final of the CAF Confederation Cup.
” For me I commend his efforts and contribution to the sporting industry for the past eight years” King said.
Also speaking, the Special Adviser to Chairman of Khana Local Government Council, Hon Nekabari Biagbara said that the imparted positively on the sports landscape of the state
” For me today, the governor has done a lot in sports development which led to the success story of Rivers United FC and the Rivers Angles” Biagbara said.
He stated that through the administration of Governor Wike may have ended, the legacies left behind will continue to endure for the growth of sports in the state.
” Governor Nyesom Wike has done a lot for the development of sports in the state for the youth to realisetheir potential”.
He described Governor Wike as the best when it comes to contribution to sports and development in the country” he said.
The Head coach of New Gunner FC of Gokana, Legbara Gentle urged the incoming governor of Rivers State His Excellency, Siminialayi Fubara to consolidate on the exploits of his predecessor as a way of engaging the youth in the state.
Unfortunately, however, some of the lofty sports establishments put up by the Wike administration did not fully kick off or become fully functional due to one exigency or another.
The magnificent Real Madrid Football Academy readily comes to mind. The academy, due to some additional developments did not effectively take off before the end of the founding administration.
This is where the incoming administration, according to commentators, should come in and ensure that the vision and dream behind the projects did not suffer still-birth.
Apart from the football academy, the new administration should keep the light shining as far as Rivers United FC, Rivers Angels, Royal Hoopers Basketball club and the Sports Council are concerned. Importantly, it is expected that grassroots sports development, particularly, schools sports and association sports would receive priority attention. These would ensure that the base needed for sustainable talent production, discovery and weaning are kept alive and productive.
It is also important that sporting facilities, such as the Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex, Yakubu Gowon Stadium, and the myriad of Sports Courts and fields constructed by previous administrations are well maintained and put to use. Facilities at the Alfred Diete-Spiff Sports Complex, especially, the swimming pool, needs to be reactivated for swimmers and other athletes to have easy access to modern facilities, towards relaunching the state to the pinnacle of sports where the state should naturally possess comparative advantage.The era of allowing sports centres and infrastructure to rot away must be frowned at and discouraged.
For renowned sports administrator, Pastor Walter Inegbenoise, Wike’s administration did well in the sports sector but the incoming administration needs to take a notch more. He believes that sports is a sector with limitless opportunity that can be tapped multi dimensionally.
Pastor Inegbenoise posited that the old days when grassroots sports events and competitions were at the doorstep of average Port Harcourt youngster should be recreated.
It is therefore critical that the private sector should be motivated through tax holidays, exemptions or other special considerations in order for them to play the required roles in sports promotion and development.
For SWAN, Rivers State Chapter, the state boasts the potential to be a leading player in the country’s sports sector. And coming from where the past administration has placed it, what is needed to keep the flag flying is ample commitment, dedication and choosing the right lieutenants to pursue and implement his vision and policies, while sustaining the good will and relationship’s already established and beyond the country.
By: Gabriel Nwanetanya With Reports From Kiadum Edookor
Insurance, Doma, Sunshine Through To FA Cup Q’Finals
Bendel Insurance carried on their impressive run in the Nigeria Professional Football League to the Federation Cup, after advancing to the quarter-finals of the competition with a 1-0 win over Heartland at the Awka City Stadium, Tidesports source reports.
In-form striker, Ismael Sarki, scored the only goal of the game in the 47th minute after lashing onto a lay-up from Stephen Adodo.
In Abuja, Doma United also booked their place in the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over second-tier Edel FC. Bidemi Owoku and Daniel Barnabas saw off their opponents with just four minutes between their goals in the first half.
Meanwhile, 10-man Sunshine Stars secured a nervy 3-2 win over another NNL side, EFCC FC, in Benin.
After a cagey opening, the NPFL side broke the deadlock through Samson Olasupo in the 42nd minute while Jide Jimoh made it two in the 82nd minute with a stylish finish after beating his marker from outside the box.
EFCC, however, pulled one back a minute later, before Emmanuel Ogbuagu scored the third for Sunshine.
Sunshine ended the game with 10 men as Udom Ekerete saw red, while EFCC pulled one back in stoppage time.
Nigerian Pupil Set Guinness World Record On Skipping
Another 17- year-old pupil of Oyemekun Grammar School Akure, Ondo State, Philip Solomon, has been declared the Guinness World Record holder for most skips on one foot in 30 seconds.
On January 24, Solomon officially recorded 153 skips on one foot in 30 seconds to outdo former record holder Rasel Islam of Bangladesh whose record was 145.
His record was officially confirmed by the Guinness World Record on Tuesday, four months after his attempt.
“Solomon was inspired by the previous holder of this record title Rasel Islam after seeing a video of his record attempt. He has been training to achieve the record and was honoured to attend a skipping world championship,” Guinness World Record announced on its website.
Solomon has joined his Ijapo High school, Akure counterpart, Gbenga Ezekiel, who was in February declared the world record holder for most skips on one leg in one minute with 265 skips, to increase Nigeria’s rope skipping Guinness World Records to two.
The senior secondary school three students also said he was inspired by the feat of Gbenga Ezekiel earlier this year.
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