BY CHRISTIAN EZE / IFEANYI UWAGWU/ EBIPADE NIEKETIEN

The exploits of Delta State in sports development across the state and the further development of the various games in the country has not been unnoticed over the years.

Unarguably, Delta has been one of the leading states in the country that made sports development an exciting sector of the geographical set up which that demands much accolades in the various government concerns in terms of policy formation and exhibition.

The beginning of the journey was not so sweet an effort as every needed material for its kickoff .was lag­ging, thus lacking in virtually all ramifications save for the availability of willing horses that were ever ready to plough and till the ground for good crops to be planted.

The present administration is geared towards main­taining the leading position of the state at all national sports events as well as ensuring that athletes from the state are well placed at every point in time whether for national or global tournaments and this is most acceptable.

Today, Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, has become the place of stay for sports enthusiasts, both competitors and spectators alike, because of the rebirth that came after 16 years of the current democratic dispensation.

It was like a mirage when the idea was raised in sports writers’ circle but time and chance have affected it positively and the phase has changed for good even within the same circle of writers and this is only great minds like Governor Ifeanyi Okowa can do and it glad­dens every heart that understands the tilt of progress that has gone far from what it used to be.

Since completion, the 23,000- capacity stadium has hosted both National and International competitions; including the 2018 edition of the African Athletics Com­petition, which had over 50 countries in attendance and FIFA accredited matches.

It has been a lucky hunting ground for the Super Eagles, who have made it their substantive home. It has placed the state at the top of the pecking order as the foremost sports destination in the country and has invariably seen an increase in the economic base of the state.

The Director -General (DG)of the Delta State Sports Commission, Sir Chris Anaziah, has said that the com­mission is prepared to open new grounds of develop­ment, which will contribute more meaningfully to the and individuals, state and the country.

He opined that having more viable athletes that will participate creditably at the global sports events is part of the new agenda and it is a very attainable height from all indications.

The D G said that the state was looking beyond taking first positions in national competitions like the National Youths Games and the National Sports Festivals, as they have been maintained over the years and would still want to retain the goal of being the “First among Equals’, but it is now time to open those grounds that have not been fully harnessed in terms of producing athletes that would be competing for first positions at international events.

Mr. Anazia, believes that the State have been excelling in national competitions and in some international events, so extra efforts on the part of the state’s athletes will take them up the steps and levels at international events so that they will be competing at the world stage.

He also expressed satisfaction with the effort of the current administration in making the state the very best in terms of adequate development of sportsmen and women by the provision and upgrade of sports facilities cum encouragement of the young talents who have been doing so well in their respective events and competitions.

Anaziah asserted that the present administration had­established the relevance of sports to the people by making the Stephen Keshi Stadium to host international matches and people have come from every part of the country to watch, thereby, helping to popularize the good and hos­pitable people of the state. The matches have indirectly boosted the economy of the people as marketers of edible items have been reported to have made good sales while the games lasted.

The Edo 2020 which was eventually postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic was another opportunity that the governor would have utilized to showcase his commitment to the development of young talents in the sports world because while others are concerned with the problem of how to outshine Delta State, the leaders of thought in the state’s sports arena, are concerned with the need to create new records outside the Nigerian horizon by young talents in the state.

As at this moment, a new swimming pool of Olympic size and standard has been constructed in Stephen Keshi Stadium and sports facilities are being established in both primary and secondary schools across the state. All these are part of the proof that can only be found only while eating the pudding and they simply speak for themselves in this sector of human development.

It is on record that the reconstruction of Stephen Keshi Stadium was to redeem the glory of the nation by the providing means to execute a sports project that would have eluded the country and he did this within a very short period to the surprise of the entire African continent.

Although the sports d e ve l o p m e n t d i d n o t start now much has been achieved since 2015 when Dr. Okowa assumed office.

These youths did not hide for too long after the creation of the state as they proved their skills in the tracks to the fields as the state was being es­tablished; it has produced great sportsmen and wom­en who have represented and flown high the Nigerian flag in international com­petitions.

Excellent sports men and women are yet another major export that God and Mother Nature have blessed the state with. Mention sports, you mention Delta.

The present administration has taken even further steps to sustain the trend. The restoration and christen­ing of the Delta State Sports Festival into an annual event, restoration of the Headmasters’ and Principals’ Cup competitions, with the objective of being the “assembly line” in its bid to dominate the sporting landscape of the country for decades to come are some of the reasons behind the steps taken to sustain the trend right from the grassroots.

Also, for the first time in the history of the state, the Okowa administration has ensured that the Delta Sports Commission and other state-run football teams received their funding as and when due. In a recent interview with The Pointer Sports, the Chairman of the State-owned Premier League side, Warri Wolves, Mr. Moses Etu, attested to that. In his words “for the first time in the history of the state football, funds for the first round of games were released at once, instead of the usual paper work and bureaucratic bottlenecks that were obtainable in the past”.

The active support of the current administration has seen the Warri-based side, perform enviably well in the current NPFL campaign as newcomers after being away for a while, and are just four points shy of continental qualification places, before the league went on a break due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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