Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa has expressed deep concern over the dwindling fortunes of football in Nigeria.
Okowa stated this at the 1st Delta State Football Summit with the theme, ‘Football as a tool for peace building and economic empowerment’.
The governor was represented by the state Commissioner for Youth Development, Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga, at the summit organised by the Delta State Football Association (DFA), held in Asaba.
Okowa tasked participants and stakeholders to review the past, evaluate the present and proffer workable solutions that can chart a new sustainable way 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.
Okowa 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 submitted that Delta occupies a leading position in sports in Nigeria as could be seen in the state’s performances in sports competitions in recent past where Delta won five out of the last six National Sports Festivals 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 had 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?
“This is 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”, 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.
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.
He said the board was determined to use the outcome of this summit to develop a blueprint which can be used to improve the lives of players, coaches and referees and as well bring all parties together under a peaceful atmosphere to discuss ways of moving football forward in the 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 reflects the realities on ground.