Lagos Dreams Sports Hub Status with Inauguration of 43 Sporting Associations

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The moniker Centre of Excellence that Lagos is known by is about to manifest in its sports sector with the inauguration of 43 sporting associations to drive the project. DURO IKHAZUAGBE who witnessed the oath taking ceremony reports…

Penultimate Wednesday, oaths were administered on the newly appointed 43 Sports Association chairmen in Lagos State. The event which held inside the the Molade Okoya-Thomas Indoor Sports Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, witnessed the emergence of three new associations to bring the total number of governing bodies for sports in the state to 43. The three new associations include; Monopoly, (added to Scrabble to form the Lagos State Scrabble and Monopoly Association), Lagos State Netball Association, Lagos State E-sports Association and the Cheerleading Association.

Speaking at the event, the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission, Sola Aiyepeku, emphasized that the new Sports Association board members were painstakingly selected to refocus and change the face of sports in Lagos State.

“We are glad to welcome you all and hope to have a better relationship,” he said.

Unlike previously held notion that funding of the sector rests at the door steps of the state government, Mr Aiyepeku insisted that that perception about government being the sole financier of sporting events had to change. He therefore urged the new Sports Associations to work independently of government to source private sector financing and sponsorships to enable them meet the target of holding/ organising at least two sporting events each per quarter.

The Chairman of the commission didn’t mince words in telling the sporting association chiefs that part of the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s government’s plan “ Is to reposition Lagos as the hub of sports and focus more on the girl-child.

He also charged all Association Chairmen to come up with a detailed plan for each Association in order to drive the Commission better. In total, 277 members were inaugurated as board members of the various associations.

Some of the newly appointed chairmen who spoke with THISDAY at the venue of the inauguration expressed their burning desires to effect a new direction for their various sports associations in the state.

Chairman of the Lagos State Boxing Association, Jenkins Alumona, admitted that Lagos has always been the hub for boxing in the country with so many clubs scattered all over the state.

“We are already working towards a proper organization and formalization of the relationship between the clubs and the association and finding ways of harnessing the benefits that come from the states huge number of amateur boxers.

Mr Alumona who is in a familiar turf as the Chief executive of Flykite Promotions, organisers of perhaps, the most successful boxing competition in the country today, the GOtv Boxing Boxing Night series, pledged to go down to the grassroots to fish for talents.

“We know that we have a good number of boxers at the grassroots level training everyday and we just need to put together a system that enables us to recognize them and harness this huge opportunity. This is work in progress,” he noted.

“Two years ago, I got the Chairman of Gotv Boxing Night, Odofin Adewunmi Ogunsanya, SAN to sponsor an inter club boxing tournament in Lagos state. It confirmed to us, once again, just how many young boxers are available to Lagos. Our hope is that we can organize many more of such competitions and some more grassroots based competitions for boxers from Ikorodu to Badagry to Isale Eko, to Ajah and everywhere else. This is Lagos. The best of everything is here and that is why we are best,” Alumona stressed with pride.

He insisted that Lagos has always produced champions “and we are not about to stop now. We want to extend our dominance and we will.”

The new LSBA Boss further pledged to put more life into the monthly Boxing Hall of Fame led by the doyen of boxing in the state, Mr Wale Edun, whose activities have been slowed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The monthly boxing show still exists. It’s a partnership between the Lagos Boxing Hall of fame led by the doyen of boxing of Boxing in Lagos state, Mr. Wale Edun and the Boxing Association. The slow down you noticed is because of Covid-19. But this will pass and the shows will return with even more rigor and additional flavor.”

Now that the nomenclature has been changed from a purely amateur boxing, is the new chairman promising more robust events like the GOtv boxing?

“Big time boxing are products of sponsorships. And big time sponsorships follow success in the areas of followership, eyeballs and footfall. This is what we are working on at the moment.

“As we do this, we hope for growth in the economy which is a sine qua non for the required support which drives the kind of sports participation you have referred to.

“What Gotv has done for professional boxing is what is required for boxing in Lagos state. Gotv’s commitment is uncommon. It’s a brand that has put its money where it’s heart is. It’s commitment is not purely attached to business benefits. But that is not necessarily the only way. We need to create an enviroment that ensures that the relationship is symbiotic.

We can create it. We have to create it. On the change of the nomenclature, I will have to ask our Executive Chairman, Mr. Sola Aiyepekun and the DG, Mr. Gafar Bolowotan the reason for this. But off the top of my head, I would think Lagos is taking a wholistic approach to growing the sport of boxing . Let’s not forget that Lagos is the hub, as you called it, of both Professional and amateur boxing in our country. Both aspects of the sport need direction, assistance, improvement and development. Until we are told differently, that’s how our board will view it,” concludes Alumona who is enthusiastic to make a change.

In the words of the newly appointed Chairman of the Lagos State Golf Association, Mr Biyi Fetuga, part of the policy direction of the board led by him would be to to continue to change the perception of golf as an elitist sport.

“This perception has been the major bane of developing talent at the grassroots. So through advocacy we have developed a schools programme that has enabled us introduce the game to pupils at both public and private schools in Lagos State .

“There are plans underway also to develop golf ranges in the six divisions of Lagos State to enable the grassroots access to the basic rudiments of the game. The people and the government of Lagos will benefit from golf. We hope that soon Lagos will be the first state in Nigeria and possibly West Africa to benefit from the existence of a public course where anybody can come and play Golf,” revealed Mr Fetuga.

Like every other sports in the country apart from football, he admitted that

funding has been a major challenge. “However, we (golf association) are fortunate that we now have a government under the able leadership of Gov Babajide Sanwo-Olu who is determined to make Lagos State a sporting hub for the sub-region.

“There has been a renewed vigor in that direction and I think as a result of this, Corporate organizations are stepping up to the plate with sponsorships particularly with our youth programmes. We are not where we want to be yet but trust that as we go by, the various initiatives that are being embarked upon by the Lagos State Sports Commission will further encourage sponsors.”

He describes golf as an $80 billion economic engine that creates millions of jobs. “The major drivers of the industry are the talents available and the enjoyment it brings to millions of tourists and visitors world wide, not to speak of resident .

“Lagos is poised to be a global golf destination and this will lead to creation of many jobs and useful engagement for our youths.

“Socially, there’s no gain saying the enormous positive social impact of teaching the rules and etiquettes of golf to our youths. Golf also contributes to charitable causes more than any other major sport, so it’s a huge way of giving back to society whilst protecting our environment as well,” Fetuga capped.

In similar vein, Chairman of the Lagos State Volleyball Association, Adeyemi Adeyeye, started off to reel out some of the restructuring that has started to take place in the sport in the state. “Well, we have started off by structuring volleyball into three parts: Youth Development, Regular Volleyball & Beach Volleyball.

“With our key objective being our youth development (5-16 year old), programmes are going into and seeking both public and private schools with volleyball programmes and courts. We are also organizing a summer youth camp (9July – September) open to all youths in the state at Teslim Balogun Stadium where the kids will be taught all aspects and fundamentals of the game.

“We will also be introducing more frequent competitions amongst both public & private schools. Regular volleyball is focused more on the universities, polytechnics and amateur volleyball clubs. We intend to have quarterly volleyball competitions to enable us discover more of the abundant talent Lagos State is blessed with.

“Beach Volleyball is one area we intend to exploit much more. I would like to appeal to all private beach operators to reach out to the association. We can all help develop Beach Volleyball to become the envy of others in the west coast.

In other to return volleyball that rivaled football during the tenure of late Eddie Aderinokun as national president to the front burner, Adeyeye admitted that talks with the School Sports department of the ministry has swung into action in identifying the various schools that have volleyball programmes and courts in all five different school districts of the state.

“The plan is to have a school or facility with a volleyball court in each of the five school districts that will serve as a hub for all the schools in that particular school district. The association will send two association coaches to those hub schools twice a week (school sports day & Saturdays) to train the kids. Our main problem though is funding,” he however hinted.

Where do we hope to see Volleyball in the State at the end of his tenure? “We want our legacy to speak for us. Our Youth development programme is key. Are you aware that at the just concluded NVBF/CAVB/FIVB U-18 Girls and U-19 Boys African Nations Volleyball Championship Lagos state had four boys and one girl in the team’s that represented the country? The boys won gold and the girls picked the silver. We have a good youth programme in place (5 – 16 years old). Funding is the only hindrance to our progress. And that’s where we need everyone’s help. I hope I can use this medium to appeal to all schools, clubs, coaches, churches, and facilities etc with volleyball interest, curriculums or volleyball courts to please get in touch and register with the association. The registration period is from Apr 1 – 30, 2021.”

In conclusion, “all I can promise is that we will make a meaningful impact on the popularity of Volleyball in Lagos State. I would rather our results speak for itself. The work has just begun and by God’s grace we will do it right.”