…SPURS AKWA UNITED FC FOR CONTINENTAL GLORY

Another feather has been added to the cap of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, as he has been honoured with the Best Sports Governor Award 2017 for his exemplary role in sports development in the state and Nigeria at large.

The State helmsman was rewarded at the presentation of Sports Governor of the Year 2017 Award/reception of Akwa United Football Club, AITEO Cup champions 2017 held at the Government House Banquet Hall in Uyo, on Wednesday.

The Executive Director of the Nigerian Sports Award, Mr Kayode Idowu, who made the presentation to the Governor, stated that the choice of Gov Emmanuel for the award was easy following his track record in sports development towered above his peers.

He said: “The Nigerian people decided, in the 6th edition of the Nigerian Sports Award, that there is a governor, who has not only made sports a culture, but believes in the power of sports to affect the lives of Akwa Ibom people.

“The Nigerian Sports Award is the most recognized, authenticated, endorsed, celebrated, professional, and the only award that matters. It is my pleasure to present first a trophy which is a badge of honour to you. We look forward to see if we will be able to find another in 2018. We also have the certificate which is freely considered by people who matter. I’m talking about the Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC) Award endorsed by the Nigerian Olympic Committee, Federal Ministry of Sports, SWAN and the people.”

The National President of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Honour Sirawoo, on his part, noted that the award was conferred on Gov Emmanuel in recognition of the most comprehensive sports development programmes and immense contributions to the development of sports in Nigeria.

“Akwa Ibom is the State with the most attractive sports supporters in Nigeria. State with the best sports infrastructure in Nigeria. Having won certificates from one organization, it means that you virtually won everything.”

Commissioner for Youths & Sports, Sir Monday Ebong Uko lauded the Governor’s strides in the sports sector as well as every other aspects of governance in the state, the passion with which he handle Super Eagles qualification match to the extent of declaring fasting and prayers for the national team which resulted to the Lions of Cameroon suffering 4-0 defeat by the Super Eagles of Nigeria in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

“Akwa Ibom has also been awarded state with the best sports supporters. In the federation, we struggle to keep the teeming fans at home whenever the Super Eagles play. We have also been awarded State with Best Sports Infrastructure from the Nest of Champions. One could have finished building the stadium but if the governor fails to maintain, it would amount to nothing. It costs a fortune to maintain a stadium. After all the National Stadium is nothing to write home about. Akwa Ibom stadium is the best in the country and has become the home of Super Eagles.

“No wonder Super Eagles and the coaching crew have decided to make Uyo their home. We can remember when they were to play their last friendly match which was scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, but they decided to stay and train in Uyo. They only left for Port Harcourt on the day of the match and later proceeded to Russia.

“Akwa Ibom State cannot be blamed for whatever happened in Russia. We did our best to ensure that they qualified. If the tournament were to be in Uyo, I’m sure that they would have won and the cup would have been here.”

Sir Monday further disclosed that 12 of children from the youth sports festival have invited to the national team and 10 were picked to Algeria, and they returned with a Gold medal, 3 bronze medals and 3 silver medals, emerging overall second for two times out of the 36 states and they are currently in Ilorin for the ongoing National Youth Sports Festival.

It is worth mentioning that the junior team, Ibom Youth Football Club, recently gained promotion to the national league for the first, and the female team, Ibom Angels, is also doing well as they are on top of the league table. They played the AITEO Cup for the first time and came second.

In terms of infrastructure, he expressed displeasure at the what some people talk during their campaign that the Eket Stadium is undergoing renovation for three years, and describe such as incorrect, saying “We are not renovating Eket Stadium. We are building a brand new Eket Stadium with 18,000 seating capacity. All the materials needed for the stadium are on ground.

Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State in a handshake with a cross section of the Akwa United FC players

Also speaking, Chairman of Akwa United FC, Paul Bassey, commended Governor Emmanuel for making sports one of the cardinal programmes of his administration, adding that he (Governor Emmanuel) felt so bad that Nigeria could not get anything after the last Olympics games, and decided to make Akwa Ibom State a role model for sports development in Nigeria by going back to the grassroots.

“He ensured that there is sports infrastructure in every federal constituency of the state. His love for youths knows no bounds. After he did all these, he was noticed and recognized at the national level as Sports Governor of the Year 2017.”

In response, Governor Emmanuel thanked the delegation for the honour done him and congratulated Akwa United FC for their victory, saying that there cannot be any other champion of the maiden AITEO Cup except Akwa United FC. “You can never come back to recreate the champions of the maiden AITEO Cup except Akwa United. It is a record that can never be erased for life.

“We place high premium on sports because we believe that people have different talents, and one of the pillars of Dakkada philosophy is that you must realise your potentials. That is why we are taking the sports facilities to schools. There are some people who would come out with first class in their examinations even if they did not read. So, you must harmonise to produce a good society for everybody.

Having won two FA Cup in Nigeria, you deserve a Continental trophy. You can’t stop at the local level. Go continental in the World Cup championship. Once the passion is right, nothing is impossible.”

The State Governor decried the rate at which some talk without understanding what they say, adding: “When some people talk, they don’t understand what they say. The person who said the Eket Stadium is undergoing renovation for three years does know the difference between a renovation and a construction. He was one of the first to build a skyscraper on Bank Anthony Way in Lagos. Today, it is the worst skyscraper in Lagos. That alone will explain whether he understands the difference between reconstruction and a renovation.

“Even the national stadium built by whole country is in ruin, Akwa Ibom has a stadium that is well maintained and the state qualified the Super Eagles – the first African team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a match to go. And that we could maintain a facility where the winners of the EUROPA Cup would choose to play rather than the national facility.”

Present at the event were Deputy Governor, Mr Moses Ekpo; Secretary to the State Government, Dr Emmanuel Ekuwem; Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. (Barr) Onofiok Luke; Head of Civil Service, Mrs Ekereobong Akpan, Commissioner for Youths & Sports, Sir Monday Ebong Uko and other Commissioners, Special Advisers, Chairman of Akwa Ibom State chapter of ALGON, Frank Archibong; AKSU VC, Prof. Eno Ibanga; Chairmen and members of Boards and Technical Committees, players and management staff of Akwa United FC, among others.

By Ima Akpabio

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