By George Aluo
Ebi Egbe, the Bayelsa State born, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of sports facility construction outfit, Monimichelle, in this interview thumbs up Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson for paying good attention to sports, especially in the area of upgrading facilities.
Bayelsa State does not rank among the states making waves in sports in Nigeria. What can one attribute to this?
The reason for this is quite obvious. It has to do with the dearth of sports facilities in the state. Bayelsa is one place where there are no sports facilities and there is no way the state would do well in sports under that circumstance. The fact that the state is blessed with sporting talents is not in doubt. You can see that a star like Daniel Igali is from Bayelsa. Samson Siasia is from Bayelsa…you can go on and on to mention Bayelsa State born athletes that have done Nigeria proud. Bayelsa is basically Nigeria’s home of combat sports. You can imagine a situation where no football at national level has been played in Bayelsa for over a decade. All Bayelsa State owned football clubs are in exile. From Bayelsa United to Bayelsa Queens down to Nembe City FC and the now disbanded Ocean Boys even the newly formed George Turner football club have no home base. They all play away from home because there is no functional stadium in Yenagoa or anywhere else in the state. But the good thing is that all that would be a thing of the past in another couple of months.
You mean the sports facility issue is being addressed?
That I can tell you for sure. The state government is doing something about it and the governor, Seriake Dickson is paying personal attention to it. The government would have long time ago achieved this but those who handled the job for the state messed it up. And in a bid to get things right, the governor has decided to personally be on top of the situation by contracting ex Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur player Garth Crooks as consultant to Bayelsa State Government on sports. Monimichelle is handling some of the projects which Bayelsa State wants to use to change the face of sports in the state. We are handling the renovation and re grassing the Samson Siasia Stadium and we have also commenced preliminary works at the Bayelsa State Fusion academy.
On the whole, what Dickson is doing is to lay a solid foundation for Bayelsa sports. This was what the previous administrations failed to do. Dickson has started from the scratch and his vision is to put state of the art sports facilities in place before he leaves office. He has invested heavily in this area since he got the mandate of the people for a second term.
What facilities will the Asoama academy boast of?
It is an academy that would have all the sports facilities one can think of. Asoama would be the first ever fusion sports academy in this part of the world. Bayelsa state Fusion sports academy will be 60% education and 40% sports with two world class Geo tech pitches, one eight lane IAAF approved full PU athletics track, a FINA approved Olympic size competition swimming pool, hand ball court, water based hockey pitch, basketball court, Volley ball court, Abula court, grass and clay ITF approved lawn tennis court, indoor sports hall, a power lifting gym for competition, a wrestling gym with a standard boxing gym.
One thing I want to make clear here is that Monimichelle does not compromise quality, so be rest assured that Bayelsa state will be having the best in the world. Once the academy is up and running, Bayelsa state would become the Mecca of Nigerian sports.
What is the vision of Monimichelle when it comes to stadium facilities?
Our vision is simple and that is to banish poor sporting facilities, especially bad pitches in Africa. It pains to see the kind of poor pitches on which football is played in the continent. The story was not in any way different during the Nation’s Cup early this year in Gabon. You saw what Gabon presented. That was not good enough. The coaches cried out. The players did. Ghana lost its captain, Asamoah Gyan to the pitch and he couldn’t continue. Monimichelle is out to change all that. The job we have done speaks for us. The stadium in Katsina was laid by us and the Eagles commended it when they played there. The Aper Aku Stadium turf Markurdi Benue state, Karkanda stadium Katsina, TP Mozembe stadium pitch in Congo were laid by us and this are pitches that have never been waterlogged. We are doing the Enyimba stadium and we hope Abia State government would make funds available for us to finish it. Monimichelle is a partner with Italy based Limota and our Geo technology pitches with coconut fiber and cork are FIFA approved. We don’t cut corners or compromise standard. My only worry is the maintenance culture of our people. We can only guarantee turfs that are maintained. When a pitch suffers zero maintenance it is messed up and that wouldn’t be the fault of those who installed it. I have always hammered on constant maintenance as that is the only way to get the best out a pitch.
The Eagles were not at the last Nation’s Cup in Gabon. What is your advise to the NFF ahead of the second stanza of the World Cup qualifiers?
Let me start by saying that the NFF board led by Pinnick has started well as far as the race to Russia is concerned. I m happy they went for a knowledgeable coach in Gernot Rohr who has started well. What the board needs is the support of every Nigerian. That is equally what Super Eagles as a team needs. We all stakeholders rally round the NFF and the team, Nigeria will land in Russia. We were all not happy missing out of Gabon, so we must close ranks to qualify for Russia 2018. I m happy the NFF is working round the clock to ensure the Eagles do well on the pitch. The recent friendly against Senegal and the camping that followed it in London was a good one. Such games would make the Eagles jell ahead of the double header against Cameroon in August.
Are you scared, given Cameroon’s current form as African champions?
There is nothing to be scared about Cameroon. All we must ensure is that we beat them at home in Uyo, once we take that game, then it’s all over. Zambia is still coming to Nigeria and if we beat them that we would have garnered 12 points which is good enough to see us land in Russia.