Lagos fans have expressed appreciation to Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode for the opportunity of watching the Russia 2018 World Cup free as one of the greatest sports fiesta ended on June 15.
The Lagos fans, who are beneficiaries of the kind gesture of Ambode, gave kudos to the governor in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday.
NAN reports that prior to the tournament won by France, the sports-loving Ambode had provided a free-to-watch large screen viewing centres across the state.
Ambode had initially ordered the viewing locations at Campos Mini Stadium, Lagos Island; Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere; Abesan Estate, Alimosho; Naval Dockyard, Ajegunle; Bishop Aggey Playground, Mushin, and the Epe Recreation Centre.
However, in response to the call for additional World Cup Viewing Centres in some parts of the state, additional centres were created which took care of the interest of every division in the state.
Other beneficiaries include Ikorodu Town Hall and Badagry making a total of eight in all.
The experience of free-to-watch World Cup viewing centres for Lagos fans made possible by the State will forever be a worthy memory in the minds of the teeming football fans of the cosmopolitan state.
Axiomatically, it is evident that the Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration has identified sports as a veritable tool that can be used to unite Lagosians in a serene atmosphere of fun and relaxation and curb youth restiveness.
The just-concluded 2018 FIFA World Cup further attests to this, football lovers in their thousands trouped to the public viewing centres for the entire duration of the competition.
For a fact, experience at the various centres confirmed that football remains a powerful force that cuts across social strata, ethnicity, class, religion or any other affiliations.
One common feature with football fanatics at the centres is the satisfaction they derive from watching football matches in a public gathering where they met with fellow fenthusiasts.
From one viewing centre to another, football fans in Lagos did not for one day fail in attendance on weekdays and weekends, including Sundays to enjoy every bit of the 64 matches.
Another thing worthy of note is that unlike the common practice in public viewing centres, where it is normal to have hot arguments or violence, all the viewing centres had no record of such.
However, the state government has been proactive in their plan for the viewing centres with adequate provision for security, insurance cover, and medicals for viewers.
Remarkably, Lagos fans have commended the state governor for deeming it fit to establish these viewing centres.
The consensus is that the idea was a step in the right direction which can be improved upon in the not too distant future.
Speaking to NAN on the kind gesture of Ambode, a worker, Dele Oloruntoba, said the gesture would forever be in the minds of fans.
“It is not as if I cannot watch these games in the comfort of my house, but the joy of watching it together with fans brings the joy of watching it as if we are in the stadium.
“It is fantastic to watch this World Cup live, I was called out by a friend to watch at the Surulere centre at Teslim Balogun Stadium, then I saw many who are better than me there,’’ he said.
Kazeem Omoniyi, a civil servant, told NAN that the viewing centres were just like stadium where people can have a feel of the Coupe de Mundial.
“I can tell you that this is our own St. Petersburg, we are there live and direct; what else do we want to enjoy more than what we may even have in the stadium.
“The seats are comfortable even in the stadium there are some seats that are not well placed which you will have to resort to the large screen which we are also enjoying here.
“What Ambode has done is something that we will forever cherish, we can always thank him for this opportunity,’’ he said.
A Lagos fan, Dupe Shobayo and school teacher, said that she enjoyed watching in the midst of die-hard male fans and sometimes enjoys their contributions.
“I have special feelings for these viewing centres because we have guys who are really passionate about the game and it is fun watching them make their contributions.
“I really feel safe here because most of the fans are not violent which makes me comfortable. I really enjoy watching football and am happy with the opportunity to have a free watch.
“It important to note that not many cases of youth restiveness were recorded. This is one of the achievements attributable to the viewing centres,’’ she said.
The Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission (LSSC), Kweku Tandoh, said the creation of the viewing centres by the government was a way of also complementing grassroots sports development.
“One of the fallouts of the World Cup experience is the need for government to create more engagement platforms for the youth.
“Already, there are various sporting activities lined up by the state government for 2018.
“The idea of creating the various viewing centres for the World Cup was just one of several other lofty activities slated for the year.
“At the grassroots’ level, Gov. Ambode is leaving no stone unturned to make sports development take its pride of place in Lagos State,’’ he said.
Tandoh thanked Ambode for providing the facilities, adding that none of the eight viewing centres across the state witnessed violence of any form.
“I want to thank Lagosians for making His Excellency, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode proud by their exemplary conduct at the various centers.
“For 30 days, there were no cases of violence, hooliganism or unruly behavior. I can assure that the government will continue to position Lagos State as the leading sports hub in Africa.
“This will be achieved through creating synergy between sports, tourism, entertainment, job creation and business.
“I am particularly overwhelmed with the success of the event; such a huge success recorded could not have been possible without the support of all and sundry,’’ he said.
As the World Cup in Russia ended, Lagos fans won’t forget in a hurry the beautiful memories they have shared at these viewing centres.
Also, the bond and unity that has permeated the air should be enough to last them for another four years as they anticipate the 2022 World Cup scheduled to hold in Qatar.