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New Maracana Stadium will help create football culture for Nigeria, says Idowu

By Christian Okpara
12 May 2022   |   2:44 am
Chairman of the Nathaniel Idowu Foundation, which recently resuscitated the famed Maracana Stadium in Tolu, Ajegunle, Lagos, Yemi Idowu, has explained that the multi-pitch arena is designed as a template for the emerging Nigerian football culture.

Chairman of the Nathaniel Idowu Foundation, which recently resuscitated the famed Maracana Stadium in Tolu, Ajegunle, Lagos, Yemi Idowu, has explained that the multi-pitch arena is designed as a template for the emerging Nigerian football culture.

Idowu, who said the grand plan is to start a project that would be emulated by other football stakeholders to create the country’s soccer culture, believes that such arenas will help build complete footballers and masters of the game from their infancy.

Speaking at the opening of the stadium located in Ajegunle, Ajeromi Ifelodun Council of Lagos State, Idowu said the arena, known as CANA Junior Sports Centre, is a place for children to play and hone their skills in football from early age, adding that the centre can accommodate more than 4,000 children playing at the same time on different pitches. He added: “This centre has 19 playing fields with the capacity to contain up to 100 teams and 4,000 children on a given competition.

“The number of pitches helps the children to develop the capacity to play intense football. They have something like this in Brazil for the game they call futsal. All we are doing is replicating it here.

“Intense football means that instead of playing one game, you are playing two games of 25 minutes and by the time you are done, you will be tired, but you will have mastered close control of the ball.”

Idowu said the centre is designed to “host boys and girls of primary three to six age, who will play in the small pitch, while secondary school students will use the medium pitch. As they grow older, they will go to the main pitch, which is for 11-a-side football.”

On maintenance of the facility, he said it is designed in such a way that it would be easy to preserve, adding, “the pitches are Astroturf, everywhere is paved and it is very easy to sweep. It is also very compact and easy to manage. We are using solar power and a central sewage control system.”

According to Idowu, the Foundation plans to integrate the project into the Lagos State school curriculum and create a time-table for age grade competitions for pupils from primary three up to senior secondary school level.

“We are starting a movement, a model, which other states will see and copy so that with time, it will improve Nigerian football culture,” he said, adding that the Foundation is working on building three other centres in Lagos.

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