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On Lagos’ new lease of life for sporting infrastructure

By Omolara Otuyemi
22 September 2021   |   5:07 am
Sports have the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to the youths in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where once there was despair… Nelson Mandela In a bid to restate his…

Sports have the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to the youths in a language they understand. Sports can create hope where once there was despair… Nelson Mandela

In a bid to restate his commitment to upgrading sporting facilities in the state, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has commenced the improvement of existing sporting facilities as well as building of new ones.

During the Super Eagles’ 2-0 win against Liberia in a World Cup Qualifying match, Governor Sanwo-Olu revealed that his administration has begun the construction of 10 mini stadia concurrently. He stressed that they are set to be delivered within the first quarter of 2022.

Before now, the Mobolaji Johnson Sporting Arena, Onikan, Lagos, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Agege Stadium, Agege and Rowe Park, Yaba, have undergone various levels of upgrade. They can now host major international tournaments.

In a chat with newsmen, Director General, Lagos State Sports Commission, Mr. Oluwatoyin Gafar, stated that the essence of the ongoing exercise is to productively engage and empower the youth.

“The most important aspect of sport is the provision of enduring infrastructure that can help the youth to exhibit their inbuilt talent and unlock their potential,” Gafar noted.

The Discovery and development of new sporting talents have become important, especially considering we now have many aging athletes. This can, however, be possible only with the availability of needed sporting facilities.

In a mega-city like Lagos, with a larger youth population, sport can become a way of escape from poverty and an uncertain future. Globally, the sport has become a money-spinning venture. Its organisation and management is a multi-million dollar venture.

In Europe, for instance, the sport has gone beyond the mere recreational activity that it is in Africa. As a result of the excellent manner it is managed, youth have found in sport a veritable means to earn a living.

It is, therefore, from this perspective that one should appreciate the efforts of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration in upgrading the state’s sporting infrastructure. With this, over 60,000 youth can be empowered. No doubt, empowering over 60,000 youth could really help in drastically reducing youth restiveness not only in the state but the country at large.

The efforts of the government in the upgrade of sports facilities are beginning to pay off, particularly in the ability of the state to host world-class sporting events. As earlier stated, after almost 20 years of absence, the Super Eagles have made Lagos its home again.

Also, the Aisha Buhari International Women Soccer Invitational was recently held in Lagos with FIFA boss, Gianni Infantino and other global soccer big wigs in attendance. The implication of this on the state’s economy and general global outlook cannot be overemphasised.

In our country, if we are to offer the teeming youth in the country an opportunity to optimise their God-given potential, we must change our attitude to sports. Hence, there is an urgent need for a complete overhauling of all sporting facilities in the country.

In view of its wealth creation prospect, governments across the country should emulate Lagos by focusing on sports development, especially at the grassroots.

Lagos is naturally leading in this regard with its Sports Endowment Fund, which is geared at taking sports to all parts of the state. It is only in doing this that we can discover new sporting heroes, revive sports and tackle the twin issues of job creation and youth restiveness in the country.

The youth represents the future of every nation. Any nation that is desirous of progress must not joke with her youth. Being a young and dynamic leader, one sincerely hopes that the Sanwo-Olu’s era as the Governor of Lagos State would usher in a new dawn for sport development. This will, no doubt, help harness the potential of the youth.

We need to rethink the revival of sporting infrastructure in the country. A visit to the various stadiums in our nation would reveal the pathetic situations of athletes preparing to represent the country in major sporting events as they train in the most awful conditions, sometimes depending on support from family members, friends among others.

The implication of neglecting sports is far too grievous. We inadvertently shut the door against the talents of thousands of Nigerians who would have used the same to escape from poverty.

Developing and investing in sports is one sure way of empowering the youths and other professionals (such as doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists, athlete managers etc) in the various sporting fields to become productively engaged. In this time of youth restiveness and national insecurity, encouraging youths to take to sports would surely be of immense benefits to the country.

This is why kudos must be given to the Sanwo-Olu led administration in Lagos State for its effort to transform sports in the state. The upgrade of existing sporting facilities as well as the construction of new ones is geared at tapping the dormant human and financial resources in the private and multi-lateral sectors.

The Sanwo-Olu Administration has been harnessing the potentials of Lagos youth through the resuscitation of many sporting competitions. It has also embarked on sports and recreational infrastructural development aimed at encouraging sport development across the state.

This is the time for governments at various levels as well as stakeholders to evolve policies and strategies that would support the development of sports and sporting infrastructure in our country. Decaying sporting facilities across the country must be given a facelift in addition to providing new ones. This is the only way that we could ensure the discovery of new sporting talents in our nation.

It is a shame that after the exit of the likes of Nduka Odizor and David Imonite, the game of lawn tennis has virtually died in the country. If Richard Williams, the father of celebrated American lawn tennis stars, Serena and Venus Williams, could singlehandedly turn the duo into world-beaters, with the right policy and programs, there is no reason why we should not be able to train and raise potential world lawn tennis champions in the next ten years.

Similarly, the private sector must take a more active role in the project to restore the nation’s lost glory in sports. All over the world, the initiatives and funds that drive sports come from the private sector. With the needed private sector drive, moribund school sports competitions across the country could be resuscitated.

Otuyemi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa.