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.
Present at the summit were Deputy Speaker DTHA, Rt. Hon. Ochor Christopher Ochor, Hon Charles Emetulu, Nigerian Football Federation President, Mr. Amaju Pinnick, The Executive Chairman Delta State Sports Commission, Chief Tonobok Okowa, D.G Delta State football Association, 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.