Fallout of AFCON 2013: Eagles triumph will usher in new dawn in sports …

| February 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

Chief Rommy A. Ezeonwuka is the first and only Nigerian to own a private stadium situated at his prestigious Rojenny Tourist/Games Village in Oba, Anambra State. When Saturday Mirror paid him a short visit recently he had a lot to tell and celebrate following the massive renovations going on in his Games Village and the Super Eagles victorious Nations Cup outing in South Africa.

Speaking exclusively on the feat achieved by the Eagles, the amiable sports administrator and traditional ruler revealed that the victory in South Africa would usher in a new dawn in sports administration in the country.

“The Super Eagles AFCON triumph marks the beginning of a new dawn in sports development in Nigeria because we have labored for more than 19 years since we last won the trophy and today we are proud to see that winning mentality coming back to our sporting terrain.

“With the victory, the dark days of Nigerian football are over, as Nigerian football will now witness a boom where all the soccer stadia will be busy with activities. I foresee a situation where people will now begin to give up the craze to watch Euro league matches and throng our local stadia to watch the best of Nigerian football. “It is now left for the administrators of football and sports in general to capitalise on this new dawn to take sports development in the country to a new level by engaging the youths actively.

And with this new dawn, bombing, kidnapping and armed robbery will not be fashionable anymore for our youths to engage in because they will be busy, as they will be looking for ways to make the country proud through sports,” Ezeonwuka began.

To buttress his point, the Ogirishi Igbo title holder revealed that during the Nations Cup in South Africa, Boko Haram members ceased bombing and many of the kidnappers were glued to their television sets watching the best of African football. And this according to him is what the new dawn of sports development will bring to our nation soon.

Speaking further on the magic formular employed by Coach Stephen Keshi that re-engineered and brought in the sudden turn-around in the Super Eagles, Ezeonwuka went down memory lane. “I want to say here that everyone has his own luck in every sphere of human endeavour and Keshi is not an exception. “Keshi, through this victorious outing of the Eagles has shown that he is a true and patriotic Nigerian, who was born and bred in the country.

He played active football during his days for Nigeria and made us proud by winning the Nations Cup in Tunisia in 1994 as a captain. This time, he has repeated the same feat by winning the trophy as a coach. So, I see him as a lucky man whom God has shown great favour.

“The same favour also follows Christian Chukwu. Remember in 1980 Chukwu captained the Nigerian team to a victorious AFCON outing, and he was a coach under Clemence Westerhof in 1994 when we won the trophy for the second time,” Ezeonwuka said. Speaking further on the tactics applied by Keshi which gave him good result in South Africa, the proprietor of Rojenny Tourist/Games Village revealed that he never allowed anyone to influence his choice of players for the tournament.

“One major tactics that Keshi applied which worked for him was that he never considered federal character as done in politics in the selection of players. “He never cared about which state the players were coming from in the country, but went ahead to select the best legs the country could offer at that time for the Eagles. “Keshi never cared whether the team is populated by the Igbos or Yorubas, but he went for the best players on ground and you could see the marvelous achievement he made with the team in South Africa.

“He also knew the potentials of homebased players and you could see how he graciously blended them with their foreignbased counterparts to achieve victory at the end of the day. So, one can say that Keshi’s magic formular was based on his determination to assemble the best legs on offer and commitment in blending the team,” he said. Speaking on the massive renovations going on at the Rojenny Tourists/Games Village, Ezeonwuka said he embarked on it in preparation for future use by talentedathletes in the state as a result of the boom which is envisaged to engulf Nigeria’s sports industry following Super Eagles triumph.

“I’m the one doing all these massive renovations because I believe that I must be prepared to welcome the new dawn for sports development in the country following the Super Eagles triumph.

“In the past Rojenny Stadium used to be the busiest stadium in Nigeria and with football activities about to pick up in the country, I must prepare the place for clubs to train and play matches.

Remember, this stadium has hosted seven continental matches (CAF competitions) which saw teams and countries like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Angola, Cote D’Ivoire and others, playing here during the days of Jasper United and Udoji United.

“And it is on record that this is first privately-owned stadium to have hosted seven continental matches including a Nation’s Cup qualifier in Nigeria. “Aside all these, I want to also reveal to you that it was at this Games Village that the 1993 world-conquering Golden Eaglets were camped for two years and three months under Coach Fanny Amun.

The team had the likes of the Babayaros, Kanu Nwankwo, Wilson Oruma and others who camped and trained here for that period and I was like a father to them. “I put them on special diet and even gave them scholarships as way of motivating the players, especially those of them that wanted to further their education. “I did all these because some of the parents of the players wanted to withdraw them from camp as they preferred their wards to be educated than playing soccer.

But I was convinced that giving them scholarship to further their education will really help the players actualise their dreams of having good education and I did that for the love of my nation,” Ezeonwuka added. However, he said with a tinge of regret that since the Eaglets left, government has not deemed it fit to bring more teams to camp in the games village and made a passionate appeal to the administrators of football in the country to have a change of heart in this regard.

“I am proud that it was from this Games Village that the Japan’93 Eaglets were nurtured before they went to conquer the world and brought honour to the nation and now government knows how I took care of these players, so I’m appealing that they should give me more teams to camp here so that I would continue to contribute my own quota for sports development in Nigeria, especially with this new dawn in our football development.

“That is the reason why I’m renovating the Games Village and you could see that this is a 60,000-sitter capacity stadium and the largest in the South-East geopolitical zone of the country. “Last time you all visited here, I revealed to you that the government of Anambra State has assured me that they will support in the renovation of the place and I strongly believe that the promise is still effective.

“We are also waiting to see them actualize what they assured us here, because what we are doing here is for the good of the state and Nigerian youths in particular. Even the Commissioner for Youth and Sports in Anambra State, Dr. Edozie Aroh, has assured me that Governor Peter Obi is still optimistic of renovating the place to help keep our youths busy through sports and discovering future talents for the state and the country at large,” he said.

Aside all the renovations going on, Ezeonwuka revealed that the stadium requires a tartan track urgently to enable athletes train in. “The state government has assured us of assistance, but I think Rojenny needs a tartan track for our athletes to train on. We need to produce good athletes here in Nigeria and aspire to beat other countries like Jamaica in the event.

“Anambra has produced great athletes for the country in the past, like Mary Onyeali-Omagbemi and Uchenna Emedeolu, and currently lots of talented athletes abound in the state seeking for who will nurture them to stardom.

“So, I am waiting for the state government to come to our aid of providing a tartan track here to enable our athletes to train with. And with this in place, we can host school sports and talent-hunt programmes,” he affirmed. Ezeonwuka hailed the governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, for showing interest in sports development in the state as against what it used to be in the past and also took time to blast previous governments in the state for neglecting the sports industry. “As far as I’m concerned, Gov. Peter   Obi has surprised many people, especially those doubting his sincerity in transforming the state with the massive construction projects going on in the state.

“In the area of sports development, the governor is doing his best with the limited resources at his disposal and I believe that he has in his portfolio unfolding plans for sports development in Anambra State. “The free-fall of sporting activities in the state has to do with the poor administration of sports by the previous governments in the state.

“Previous governors before Peter Obi never took sports development serious in the state and this really worked against the state. “Today, the present governor has built two mini stadia in Onitsha, and you can see that the people are beginning to renew their interest in participating in sporting activities, which is commendable,” Ezeonwuka said.

Reacting to the fact that Onitsha is one of the commercial nerve centres of Nigeria, and the failure of the private sector to sponsor sports development in the state, despite the huge amount of profits declared annually by the companies doing business in the state, Ezeonwuka expressed his regrets in this regard. “I blame this development on the door steps of some Igbo business men, especially those that reside in the state.

For those outside the state, they only return from Lagos or Abuja with lots of mobile policemen and don’t care what happens to the state where a branch of their companies is situated.

“Today, they complain of kidnappings and all the other vices happening in Anambra and I strongly believe that if they can have a change of heart in this regard by contributing to sports development, the state will be a heaven for sportsmen and women.

“Like I noted earlier, it is the hopelessness of the youths that is aiding crime in the state and I advocate that they must be kept busy using sports as a tool. “Previous governors in the state never had sports development in their agenda which led to the free-fall witnessed by Anambra in sports, before the coming in of the present government.

And to actualize all these, Peter Obi brought in a sports-loving personality in the person of Dr. Edozie Aroh as the Commissioner for Sports which is a sign of good omen for the state. “I knew many decades ago that government alone cannot sponsor sports, that was why I set up this edifice and I expect every business man doing business in the state and beyond to come home and contribute their quota to sports development in the state.

“Not during elections, these so-called billionaires who never contributed anything to sports development in the state will suddenly return to make noise and try to convince people why they should vote for them, which as far as I’m concerned is unacceptable. “They need to leave a legacy on ground for future Anambrarians to remember them for, especially in sports,” Ezeonwuka cautioned.

In his advice to sports administrators in the country, the widely travelled proprietor of Rojenny Tourist/ Games Village in Oba charged them to be more transparent in their dealings, so as to be able to handle effectively the gains that will come with the boom following Super Eagles triumph in South Africa.

“Like I noted before, the Super Eagles triumph in South Africa on February 10 will surely bring about a revolution or a boom in our sports industry which has been lacking for some time now.

“The spirit of sports development which was stolen from us as the result of the interest of our youths to embrace foreign leagues will now return home and I foresee corporate bodies falling over each other to sponsor different sports in Nigeria. “For our sports administrators, the advice I have for them is that they should be more creative in their planning this time, in order to manage the boom that will engulf our sports industry.

“They should endeavour to know that there are enormous gains that accompany good planning of sports programmes, thus they should not be selfish this time or look out for only what will line their pockets, and they should sincerely be transparent in all their dealings such that we can sustain sports development in the country. “With sports being given its pride of place in Nigeria, the unity of the country can be assured because this is one aspect of our life that has held us together.

“In sports, Nigerians love themselves, but in religion or tribe there are a lot of diversities. But with good sports administrators in charge of sports they can unify Nigeria the more, because sports is a massive weapon that can make a Boko Haram member from the north to drink from the same cup of victory with a Niger-Delta militant.

So, with his secret, our sports administrators could turn it to be the rallying point or idol of this nation,” Ezeonwuka stressed. Finally, on the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Ezeonwuka charged the Eagles not to slack in their quest to secure one of the tickets for the mundial.

“For sure, all eyes will be upon Nigeria, but the Eagles should not slip because they need to prove to the entire soccer-loving world that their achievement in South Africa was not a mere fluke. “I expect them to come out smoking redhot and crushing every opposition that come their way ahead of Brazil 2014. “I’m optimistic that we are coming back to that era when Nigeria was ranked 5th in the world,” he concluded.

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Category: Sports