By Cyriacus Nnaji
Nigeria the giant of Africa, not just because of its landmass, population and burgeoning economy primarily from crude petroleum, far from those even though those characteristics are also among the indices of greatness, but Nigeria was also a strategic factor in sports in Africa.
In the late 70s and 80s up till late 90s Nigeria played critical key roles in sports development in Africa, leading to her winning laurels in various facets of sports which were empirically evidenced in numerous football and Olympic medals garnered by young Nigerian men and women. The 1994 Nations Cup victory, the 1996 Under-23 Gold, the dominance of Nigeria in Under 17 and Under-23 in the 90s were clear exemplifications of a well structured, well tailored road map for sports development and those yielded expected results.
Grassroots sports development is a sure basics and fundamental step towards achieving large volume success not only in Nigeria but internationally.
Sports development is also an avenue for the youths to ventilate their passions, divert their attention from crime and help engage in nation building as it were.
Orji Uzor Kalu’s support for sports during his tenure as governor of Abia State enabled Enyimba Football Club to win African Champions League back to back in 2003 and 2004. With that Enyimba ended 35 years Champions league drought for Nigeria. The truth is that nothing happens by chance, there must be dream, vision, planning and execution.
In the old good days, football especially was based on catch them young philosophy, Inter-house Sports, Inter-school tournaments which were played from local, state and national level, the Shell Cup, grassroots, scouts moved from one location to another thereby grooming these young ones into national assets that represented the nation, hoisting Nigerian flag at continental and global events, such were the place of Nigeria.
What happened along the line could be attributable to what is happening to the nation generally, in politics, economy, health and others; so sports was not immune to the rancorous, discordant policy summersault of the nation in general.
Indeed the coming of Dr. Nkereuwem Etukudoh to resuscitate sports in Akwa-Ibom is not only timely, it is borne out of passion, love for the youth and sports all together.
Obong Sunday Nkereuwem Etukudoh after a careful study of what needed to be done to resuscitate and rebuild football in his state, Akwa-Ibom, decided to pool resources to sponsor the Under-15 Boys Soccer Tournament under the title: Akwa-Ibom Pillar of Sports Under-15 Boys Soccer Tournament.
The maiden edition of Akwa Ibom Pillar of Sports Under-15 Boys Soccer Tournament kicked off in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital last Saturday with screening of players.
The screening exercise which took place at Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat Sports field, was witnessed by the Akwa Ibom State Chairman of the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), Evang. Uwem Ekoh, Secretary, Mr. Isonguyo Iniodu, Organizing Secretary, Coach Idongesit Udofia and other sports stakeholders who all commended the Provost, Federal School of Medical Laboratory Science, Jos, Plateau State, Dr. Nkereuwem Etukudoh for reviving youth football competition in the state through the sponsorship of the Tournament.
Addressing the players before the screening, Evang. Uwem Ekoh advised them to be of good conduct and should play according to the rules and regulations of the tournament.
Elder Ekoh warned against the use of over-aged players, stressing that the tournament is mainly for players under the age of 15.
A total of 16 teams have been cleared to participate in the week-long tournament which final is coming up on Tuesday, 27th April, 2021, the day the Akwa Ibom Pillar of Sports will be installed by the State Chapter of the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON).
As at the time of filing this report, in a draw ceremony conducted after the screening, three matches were scheduled to take place on Tuesday, 20th April, 2021 at the Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat Sports-field.
In the first match of the day, Blessed Stars Football Club Under-15 Team will lock horns with Macito Solution by 9am. The second match of the day will be between Immortality Football Academy and Gifted Hands Football Academy.
The last match of the day will feature Spinal Cord Football Academy and Greater Tomorrow Sports Academy.
Indeed every good work deserves its reward, those who serve their state, nation or people with diligence and resources have their names written in gold and in the sand of history.
Based on his numerous sporting activities, sponsorships and Midas touch in all he does, the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON) has decided to install Obong Sunday Nkereuwem Etukudoh (Eti Ufan Ndito Ubuene) as the Akwa Ibom Pillar of Sports.
To be held on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at Emerald Event Centre, Edet Akpan Avenue, Uyo at 10am, the stage has indeed set for the august ceremony. He who the cap fits let him where it, yes, this is a perfect match, the installation of an illustrious son of Akwa-Ibom as their Pillar of Sports.