The Director-General, National Sports Commission (NSC), Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye was in Ibadan on Monday to inspect ongoing renovation work at the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, formerly known as the Liberty Stadium. The NSC top shot was taken round the arena by the management team of the NSC Zone One, led by the zonal coordinator, Dr. Steve Olarinoye, in an inspection that took the DG to the main bowl, the hostel, offices, the indoor sports hall and other facilities.
At the end of the inspection, Elegbeleye had a short interaction with journalists where he explained the rationale behind his visit and plans of the NSC to bring the stadium back to life among other things.
TOSIN OMOJOLA was there and brings excerpts from the briefing…
On his mission to Ibadan
I am here on an official visit to the headquarters of the Zone One of the National Sport Commission, which is here in Ibadan. Specifically I came to see what the facilities here look like particularly to see the level of the renovations being carried out on the arena.
What motivated the renovation
As you are aware, Liberty Stadium now known as the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium is one of the stadias owned by the Federal Government and under the supervision of the NSC, it is our duty to put the place in proper shape and to make sure it is put into use.
We cannot have such a structure like this in Ibadan here and watch it rot away. This is a stadium that has played host to international events in the past, so we decided to bring it back to life by ensuring that all the facilities in the arena are in good shape, that is the essence of what you are seeing.
His assessment of work done
Well, having gone round to see how far the renovation work have gone within and outside the main bowl, I will say that I am satisfied with the level they have reached. As you can see, the pitch is almost ready; same as the tartan tracks, the scoreboard is working perfectly.
The hostel is wearing a new look, very conducive now and the indoor sport hall is not left out. Having said that, we are not resting on our oars yet until the whole renovation is completed.
Any set time for its completion?
With the level of the work done so far and with the rate we are moving, let me say hopefully by the end of the Brazil 2014 World Cup, we should be talking about putting this place into use. Although I cannot be specific now but I see the work ending around that time and everything that needed to be done would have been done.
Looking at it now, almost all the important parts have been touched. What I think remains are the finishing touches, before you know it, we will be through.
Hosting of international football matches
Like I told you earlier, we are carrying out these renovations to bring back this stadium to life and that can be possible when big matches are played here. When I say big matches, I am talking about matches involving all the national teams, the Super Eagles, Flying Eagles, Golden Eaglets, the Super Falcons and other women national teams.
I can remember vividly the last time this stadium played host to international match was in 1999 and since then, nothing has happened now we want to bring back those matches here.
Calabar has been hosting international matches, same as Kaduna, so what stops those matches form being played here too?
Hosting of other sporting events
We are not limiting it to football matches alone. Like somebody rightly pointed out, this stadium had hosted other big events like the boxing bout involving Dick Tiger. That is why it is a general renovation. We are not limiting it to football.
The tartan track is being renovated not for football matches but for athletes, likewise the indoor sport hall is for indoor games. We were at the hostel where our special athletes would be camped ahead of their participation in a championship, so you can see that we are working to bring the stadium to life though the staging of international sporting events.
National Stadium, Lagos and the other stadia
I will like us to concentrate on the stadium here because that is what we are here for. As for the other stadia particularly the one in Lagos, I believe you are all aware that the Federal Government has decided to concession the stadium and the process to do that is ongoing. We want to concession the place for private sectors to manage very well and utilise the arena.
As for this place, we are going to do all we could to make use of it regularly. We have what we need to put the place in shape for use and I want to assure you that that will be done.
Efforts on grassroots sports development
Yes, we are at the NSC see the development of sports from the grassroots as very important. We have a minister who is interested in this aspect and I as a person believes so much in catching them young and grooming them to become world beaters likewise the zonal coordinators and other officials of the NSC. If you have been following the activities of the NSC, you will note that we have seen various competitions at the zonal level. Events that have to do with the young ones and the essence is to bring in the young ones to display their talents from where we would be able to get them and nurture then to represent the country in future competitions.
Preparations for international meets
This is something we are taken seriously. We have ahead of us various international sporting events like the Commonwealth Games, the Olympics and the rest. That is one of the reasons we are concentrating on grassroots sports development. Our aim is to change the old system whereby we just go to such events without adequately preparing for them, only to come back home empty handed.
That era is gone, that is why we are designing our programmes to bring in results. We want to participate in every event to win laurels not just to participate in those events.
You will recall that we took the decision to drop some sports and concentrate only on sports that we know have medal prospects, this is to avoid the usual jamboree trips and I want to assure you that preparations for successful outings in these sporting meets are ongoing, we are not folding our arms as regards this.
Through all these grassroots events, if we discover talented athletes who can come in to replace the ageing ones, we will not hesitate to encourage such athletes all in the bid to making sure that results are achieved at every event.
Super Eagles and Brazil 2014 World Cup
Like every other Nigerian, I am looking forward to a glorious outing at the Brazil 20144 World Cup. I said during the unveiling of the team’s jerseys a few months ago that we have no excuse to fail not only Nigerians but the continent of Africa as a whole.
This is because we are going to Brazil as the African champion and the whole continent will be looking at us to make a strong impact at the World Cup. Even if other teams fail to excel, we cannot afford to fail because we are the current African champions. As far as the NSC is concerned, we are giving the team every support needed to ensure a successful performance in Brazil.