Ambassador pledges more support for grassroots football in Nasarawa

From Esther Akaa, Lafia

Nigeria’s newly appointed Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Henry Omaku has pledged his support for grassroots football developments in order to reposition sporting activities in the state.

Omaku made the commitment in an interview with newsmen in Lafia recently shortly after the conclusion of the Nasarawa state Football Association (NSFA) 2019/2020 ‘Premier league’ competition, grassroots initiative for local football teams across the state.

The second edition of the competition, organised NSFA in Partnership with Bet9ja, a betting company ended with a grand finale and awards presenting to deserving politicians and personalities, held at the Lafia City in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.

About 42 football teams across the state accredited and participated in the tournament which kicked off on 26th September, 2019.

The competition after several fixtures and elimination rounds, Ogene Football Club and Kokona Selected Football Club emerged as finalists with Kokona Selected FC emerging as champions after defeating Ogene FC 4-2 on spot kicks after playing out a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time.

Ambassador Henry Omaku, the state Commissioner of youth and Sports Development , Hon Othman Bala Adam, Hon. Mohammed Omadefu(Member, Nasarawa State House of Assembly); and Hon. Daniel Ogah Ogazi(Member, Nasarawa State House of Assembly) were presented with awards of excellence for their outstanding contributions to the development of sports in the state.

Other awardees include Hon. Salisu Iyimoga(Member, Nasarawa State House of Assembly); His Royal Highness, Lawrence Ayih 11(Abaga Toni), and Ahmed Halilu Evulanza(CEO, Vinco Innovations).

Speaking in an interview shortly after receiving the award, Amb Omaku said he was impressed with the turnout of youths and supporters and the interest the competition ignited across the state.

He added that despite his deployment to Sierra Leone, he would continue to support any effort aimed at the development of grassroots football and sport 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 am a sports loving person.

“I eat sports. I drink sports. So definitely, i will not stop supporting this kind of initiative,” he said.

Also speaking, another awardees , Hon Mohammed Omadefu said he hoped the competition in future editions will be organised better and 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.

In another interview, Chairman of Doma Local Government Area, Hon Rabo Sani expressed delight at the organisation and conclusion of the tournament and appealed to the organisers of the competition to ensure its continuity so as to expose more talents.

On his part, Chairman of the Nasarawa FA, Mohammed Alkali said he was happy with the massive support gotten across the state including the media whom he credited for spreading news on the competition.

“I cannot say anything more than to thank the media for giving us publicity right from the beginning to the final. 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 sometimes in 2020 but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic halted the progress of the competition till the federal government gave the go ahead for contact sports to resume across the state.

“When the pandemic started, I sat down and cried because the pandemic came and stopped everything but to God be the glory, later federal government lifted the ban on contact sports and we decided to complete it for it to be in the history books,” he said.

He, therefore thanked the state Governor, Abdullahi Sule for creating an enabling environment for sports development and applauded Bet9ja for having faith in the state FA and sponsoring the competition in the state.

Kokona Selected FC won the maiden trophy with 4-2 to the agony of Ogene FC on spot kicks after regulation time ended 1-1 apiece.
The Voice reports that both teams were offered slots to participate in the National Amateur Divisions 2 (automatic) & 3(play-offs).

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