Chairman of DeltaÂ Â State Sports Commission, Amaju Pinnick, went into celebration yesterday when world football governing body, FIFA, officially announced Warri and Kaduna as venues for the U-17 World Cup that Nigeria will host this October.
Warri, arguably one of the top three venues in the country, initially had problems over violence in the creeks of Niger Delta which FIFA wrongly perceived to be in the city where soccer events would hold. They, consequently, did not visit the zone in their last inspection based on such fears.
But they still announced Warri as a standby venue and during their visit to secure government guarantee June 13, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan passed President Umar Yaraduaâ€™s message to the football chiefs, assuring them that Nigeria will play great hosts to the world of football and also pressed that Warri and Kaduna be included as venues.
Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan had made a strong presentation, reminding FIFA that football is the strongest tool for peace and unity. The FIFA men bought his argument even as he also cleared the air the safety of the city of Warri, maintaining the areas where they had strife were not in Warri city.
â€œThe official news from FIFA is worth celebrating,â€ Amaju said yesterday, adding â€œWarri remains one of the best venues and it would have been unfair to football if it was not used as a venue for a championship Nigeria will host.
I want to thank President Yarâ€™Adua for his foresight, Vice President Jonathan for his support and our sports loving governor for his tremendous efforts for truth to prevail. We are all in the project Nigeria together and denying Warri chance to showcase all their facilities and skills in staging big events wouldnâ€™t have portrayed our true national strength. I want also thank Nigerians, especially the sports media who have stood by the side of truth throughout the strugglesâ€
It now follows that eight venues will host the championships. Abuja, Lagos, Ijebu-Ode, Enugu, Lagos and Calabar first scaled the hurdle but FIFA still warned that any of the venues not ready before the draws are made in July will be dropped. They visit again in August.