Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa on Wednesday expressed deep concern over the dwindling fortunes of football in Nigeria.
Okowa stated this at the 1st Delta State Football Summit The Summit with the Theme “Football as a tool for peace building and economic empowerment” organized by the Delta State Football Association (DFA), which held at Vacation Suites Asaba.
Represented by the State Commissioner for Youth Development, Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, Okowa tasked participants and stakeholders to review the past, evaluate the present and proffer workable solutions that can chart a new sustainable way forward in running football as a truly entertaining and commercial enterprise.
He said the summit was conceived as a modest contribution of the Delta State Government to the growth and development of football not only in the state but in the country.
He stated that football could become a huge income earner for clubs, players, and the country especially as it had become a huge industry in some parts of the world if well managed.
He said Delta occupied a leading position in sports in Nigeria and could be seen in the state’s performances in sports competitions in recent past where Delta won 5 out of the last 6 National Sports Festival and currently produces the highest number of athletes in major international sporting competitions.
“It is pertinent to state that the abysmal performance of our national teams in recent international sports meets, particularly the World Cup, African Nations’ Cup and African Clubs competitions, is indeed a serious cause for concern.
“More worrisome is the country’s slide in Junior competitions, a sport where we have dominated the continent in the last couple of decades.
“How can we explain our failure to qualify for the last Cup of Nations? Why should qualifying for an African football competition be an issue?
“The time for us to stop paying lip service to football development in the country. If we continue to do same thing the same way, we are likely to get the same abysmal result.
“The time to do things differently is now and I charge all resource persons and participants to use this platform to cross-fertilize ideas and brainstorm to come out with a blue print that will serve as a reference point for stakeholders in football across the country,” he said.
He further stated that hosting the football summit was a way of promoting and fostering the much desired peace and unity which a virile sports policy could engender.
He remarked that Nigeria could fare better in football if all stakeholders aggressively offer useful and result-oriented ideas, which will be implemented by the authorities.
“There is need for optimization in football development including talent hunt, football administration, funding and programmes for our footballers and much more.
“At the end of the summit, we should be able to recommend ways to get football back to our schools and bring up ideas on transition of outstanding potentials to elite level,” the Governor said.
Earlier, the Chairman, Delta State Football Association (DFA), Mr Kenneth Nwaomucha, stated that the association was using football to preach peace and also a means of income generation.
According to him,”The board is determined to use the out come of this summit to develop a blue print which can be used to improve the lives of players, coaches and referees of the beautiful game and as well bring all parties together under a peaceful atmosphere to discuss ways of moving football forward in Delta State.”
Mr Nwaomucha expressed gratitude to Governor Okowa, for investing in sports in general and football in particular, and for approving the hosting of Principals Cup, Headmasters Cup, by the Ministry of Education among secondary and primary schools.
The President of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Mr Amaju Pinnick, commended the Delta State Football Association (DFA) for organising the summit, stating that the theme of the summit was in sync with the realities on ground.
He advised members of the football association to have like minds and shun bitterness amongst themselves, adding that he had forgiven all those who offended him and advised others to do same to move the association forward.
Also, the Chairman of the Delta State Sports Commission, Chief Tonobok Okowa, harped on the need for stakeholders to be united, to work in sync with the chairman of the association.
He advised board members to be loyal, shun act of confrontation, stating that Mr Nwaomucha was a man who listened and loaded with lots of experience.
Present at the summit were Deputy Speaker DTHA, Rt. Hon. Ochor Christopher Ochor, the Delta State Football Association board members, Ex and present footballers, representative of local government football council, representatives of football clubs in Delta State among others.