By Olukayode Babalola
Lafia, Jan. 18, 2021 Henry Omaku, Nigeria’s Ambassador designate to Sierra Leone, and some politicians in Nasarawa have pledged more support for grassroot football development in the state.
They made the pledge in separate interviews with newsmen in Lafia, on Monday, shortly after the conclusion of the Nasarawa State Football Association (NSFA) 2019/2020 ‘Premier league’ competition, a grassroot initiative for local football teams across the state.
Naija247news reports that the 2nd edition of the competition was organised by the NSFA, in Partnership with Bet9ja, a betting company, with 42 teams across the state accredited to participate in the tournament, which kicked off on Sept. 26, 2019.
After several fixtures and elimination rounds, Ogene Football Club and Kokona Selected Football Club emerged as finalists, with Kokona Selected FC eventually emerging champions, after defeating Ogene FC 4-2 via a penalty shootout, after playing a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
Omaku, who just got posted as ambassador to Sierra Leone, by President Muhammadu Buhari, said he was impressed with the turnout of youths and supporters and the interest the competition had ignited across the state.
He said despite his deployment, he would continue to support any effort aimed at the development of grassroot football and sports, to give youths in the rural areas a sense of belonging and a platform to develop and showcase their skills.
“The tournament itself is highly fascinating. You can see how it brought people together. You can see how the youths are very cheerful, despite the pandemic. They still came out.
“I want to assure you that organising such tournaments will continue to foster unity among the diverse communities in the state and I will continue to play my part in that regard, because I love sports.
“I eat sports. I drink sports. So definitely, I will not stop supporting this kind of initiative,” he said.
Also speaking, Mohammed Omadefu, Member representing Keana Constituency in the State assembly, said he hoped the competition would be better organised in future editions, to attract more sponsorship for the benefit of the youths.
“For us in the house of assembly, we will do our best to provide the needed legislation to promote sports development in the state,” he said.
Rabo Sani, Chairman of Doma Local Government Area, also expressed delight at the organisation and conclusion of the tournament and appealed to the organisers to ensure its continuity, so as to expose more talents.
Chairman of the NSFA, Mohammed Alkali, who also spoke to the media, said he was happy with the massive support received from across the state, including the media, who he credited with spreading the news about the competition.
“I cannot say anything more than to thank the media for giving us publicity right from the beginning to the finals. The media made sure people from the state heard of it. Even people outside the state and outside the country were aware,” he said.
He explained that the competition would have ended sometime in 2020, but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic stopped its progress until the Federal Government gave the go ahead for contact sports to resume.
“When the pandemic started, I sat down and cried because it stopped everything, but to God be the glory, later the Federal Government lifted the ban on contact sports and we decided to complete it, for the history books,” he said.
He thanked Gov. Abdullahi Sule, for creating an enabling environment for sports development, and applauded Bet9ja for having faith in the state FA and sponsoring the competition.