Moshood Abiola Stadium rehabilitated, delivered to sports ministry
• Dare tasks NFF on CAF inspection, certification of national arena
Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, at the weekend, formally received the rehabilitated Moshood Abiola Stadium pitch and Digital Scoreboards from the Dangote Industries Group (DIG) that revived it after many years of neglect.
Under the ‘Adopt-a-pitch’ initiative of the Minister, Sunday Dare, the turf and the digital scoreboards were brought back to live.
The pitch would be maintained for two years and a year for the digital scoreboards by Aaron Nigeria Limited. In his remarks, the representative of the Chairman of Dangote Industries Group (DIG), Aliko Dangote, the Executive Director, Stakeholder Management and Corporate Communications of the Group, Alhaji Mansur Ahmed, stated the formal hand-over of the rehabilitated pitch is a testimony of the commitment of the company to sports development and support to football.
“As we all know, Nigerian players are international but until now, we don’t have an international standard facility and our commitment is to work with the ministry to make sure that this particular facility remains of international standard. We are therefore happy to contribute through this renovation, and by the arrangement to maintain it for the next two years,” Ahmed said.
The Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, Ismaila Abubakar, lauded Dangote Group for believing in the vision of the Minister and exemplifying a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) that works. He restated the commitment of the ministry to ensure that the new facility is put to productive use and properly maintained.
Also speaking at the event, former Super Eagles’ star, Daniel Amokachi, who is now a special adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Sports, pleaded with Dangote Group to extend the two years promised for the maintenance of the pitch, saying that not much could be achieved within the period.
Though Amokachi showered encomiums on the minister for his foresight in thinking out of the box to fix the dilapidated pitch, he charged the Dangote Group to consider extending the period of maintenance, stating, “after expending $100 million to renovate the facility, long-term maintenance is paramount”.
While receiving the handover documents from the Executive Director, Projects, Aron Nigeria Ltd, Soji Adeniji, Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, lauded the contractor and Dangote Group for completing the project in record time, despite constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By the words of the experts here and those that have toured the facility, we have the latest grass here – Paspalum grass, one of the best, when we talk about football pitches across the World. Something exactly similar to what we have in Qatar that will be used for the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
“We thank Alhaji Aliko Dangote for opening his doors to us, and accepting to adopt the Moshood Abiola Stadium when we came up with our ‘Adopt-a-Pitch’ proposal.”
The renovated pitch, aside from the new digital scoreboards, has a nursery being cultivated to produce fresh grass to replace withered ones when necessary, and sprinklers to keep the grass lush green all year round.
Only a few months ago, the President of the world football governing body, FIFA, Gianni Infantino, while on a visit to the stadium, commended the quality of the new pitch and promised to facilitate the hosting of international matches on it.
The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development is eager to get the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja to host international football matches as soon as possible.
The ministry, sources revealed, will write the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to begin the process of getting the stadium certified by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and also work with the ministry to facilitate the installation of the Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) technology.
“The minister has instructed the Department of Facilities in the ministry to work with the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on getting the stadium certified by CAF, or even FIFA, if need be,” the source revealed.