No sooner had Governor Udom Emmanuel mounted the saddle than Akwa United won the FA Cup in 2015, a record in the 53 year old history of the prestigious tournament.
Paul Bassey and Udeme Uyota
Last Monday in Abuja, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State was honoured for Sports development in general and the support of Super Eagles in particular towards their qualification for Russia World Cup 2018. Last week, a colleague called to say that Super Eagles Coach Gernot Rohr had passed a vote of confidence on the facilities at Uyo, capital of Akwa Ibom State.
According to the news report which hit the airwaves and newsstands next day, the Eagles gaffer has decided to make the Nest of Champions and the Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, his destination of choice.
“We will camp and train in Uyo where the grass is the best in the Country and the environment very enabling for our camping and preparations…” The Coach also used the opportunity of the World Press Conference to put a seal on the likely venue of the last Nation’s Cup qualifying encounter against Seychelles next March. “It will be in Uyo” he affirmed. The last three and a half years of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration has witnessed tremendous footprints in the Sports sands of this country leading to the unanimous conferment of Governor Emmanuel as the Country’s best Sports Governor in the year 2017.
Last year was also the year, the State was voted as best in Sports infrastructure, best in grass root sports development and best in fans supportership. Uyo Crowd Support? Ask the Super Eagles who qualified for the World Cup with a match to spare. Again the Super Eagles have also qualified for the Nations Cup 2019 with, again, a match to spare.
On the domestic scene, no sooner had Governor Udom Emmanuel mounted the saddle than Akwa United won the FA Cup in 2015, a record in the 53 year old history of the prestigious tournament. The State’s flagship returned in 2017 to become first winners of the Aiteo Cup to prove that the 2015 feat was not a fluke. The State women football team the Ibom Angels qualified for two consecutive Aiteo Cup finals in 2017 and 2018, though they narrowly lost both to Rivers Angels (3-4 penalties and 0-1) this is a feat by all standards.
Ibom Youths, a feeder team of Akwa United playing in the Nationwide League last football season gained promotion to the National League. As electioneering campaigns begin and the 2019 elections draw near, one sure constituency that Governor Udom Emmanuel will harvest more votes to assist him coast home to a sure victory in his re-election bid for a second term in office, is the sports community of the State.
The sports community across the state is certainly one vast constituency that has benefited more from the performance driven administration of Governor Emmanuel in the past three and half years of his mounting the saddle of governance of Akwa Ibom State. Commensurately, besides; impacting so much in the provision and expansion of existing infrastructural facilities, Governor Emmanuel and his administration has unremittingly been building capacity in the area; thus improving on the quality attracted to the sector as a veritable source to achieving the optimum engagement of individuals who, as future drivers of the industry, would leverage on the huge economic and social potentials reputed of the sector.
Indeed, the monumental growth witnessed within the sector in the last few years has provided more than the needed boost and also continue to build wide enthusiasm among practitioners and investors in sports across the state.
For instance, since the administration’s bold initiative to regularly and promptly fund the state football flagship, the Akwa United Football Club, much has been the improved fortunes and fame of the club, which, besides launching it onto the international football stage, has also witnessed her winning of the Federation, now Aiteo Cup, twice in the last three years.
These were a fitting fame that brought unprecedented glory to the state, even as the increasing lure of football as a vast income earner has continued to draw scores of Akwa Ibom youths into limelight by plying the beautiful game as a lucrative life-time profession across an ever growing soccer crazy world. Football, no doubt, draws quite a huge following in fans, players, trainers, scouts, coaches and sports entrepreneurs, who weekly, trail and scour the soccer centres of the world for discovery of new and potential talents who would boost the ever growing industry across its global spread. It is particularly to Governor Udom Emmanuel’s growing credit, that arising from his passionate interest and investment in football, Uyo through the regular hosting and patronage of international club sides and national teams alike, have become converted as the popular soccer capital of the country.
The effect itself while resonating with, and drawing more visitors globally into the state, has exponentially created a major boost to the state’s tourism potential and in the stride, benefited many an indigene or resident of the state, who have over the time, exploited such grand opportunities for maximum economic benefits; all to the gain of the state’s hitherto civil service economy. More importantly, the value chain as it were, and cutting across those in the hospitality industry, food vendors, marketers of sports promotional materials and equipment, the local art and craft industry, mementoes, etcetera; and which quick multiplier effects are deemed many, have been too noted to exceptionally impact the local commerce and sundry private economies of the state in no small way.
Again, it is the tremendous commitment and efforts of the administration, which has interestingly reinvented and rejuvenated the place of sports competition in the state public schools.
It has not been only about football though. With an uncanny knowledge of sports politics and administration, Governor Udom Emmanuel set out in 2016 to launch the first ever Akwa Ibom Youth Sports Festival for Schools and Colleges in the State. According to the indefatigable State Commissioner of Youth and Sports, Sir Monday Ebong Uko, “…His Excellency has charged us to go down to the grassroots to discover and nurture talent to take over from our faded and jaded stars. “This year we held the second Youth Sports Festival involving over 8,000 students from primary and secondary schools and the success has been overwhelming…”
In 2017, immediately after the first Youth Games, Akwa Ibom went to Ilorin for the National Youth Sports Festival and came out second in the overall standings – A feat never dreamt of before now.
This, besides inspiring the student’s drive to aspire and strive hard to achieve greatness for self and the state, it has equally opened up a window of opportunity for the employment of trained teachers and experts in the various fields of health and physical education, including psychologists and sports medicine professionals, who are presently engaged in public secondary schools and the state Ministry of Youth and Sports, to efficiently train and handle future track and field champions of the state among other developing and self development sports.
Indeed, as Governor Udom Emmanuel’s revolutionizing strides and splendid stance in governance continues amid massive turn-around and landmark achievements noted in virtually all of the state sectors, sports remains one key area, where the government has scored impressively so high in the minds of its soaring devotees and a united constituency, the governor, adjudged to have stamped bold and very indelible imprints as hallmarks of his championing the myriad growth and successes recorded and still counting on in the various and dedicated sport fronts across the state.
It incredibly points to why these stellar feats have clearly combined to expose the incredible but widening base of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s broad and ever growing army of sport’s community supporters. These will enthusiastically vote for his return; and those votes will decisively count in the prime but definite quest to re-elect this nationally acknowledged and honoured sports loving Governor for another endearing term in office, advantage Akwa Ibom State.
Bassey is the SSA to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Sports