There is no denying the fact that Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola is a sports loving governor. Not like you see with other state governors who are sports loving by name, his is by deed as he plays football as a member of the Lagos chapter of the All Stats Football Club.
When he came on board as the stateâ€™s helmsman, many who knew him rejoiced that sports in the state will get a better attention unlike what existed before when sports got but a mention and the athletes deserted the state for the proverbial greener pastures in other states.
The first shock the leeches in sports got was when Governor Fashola spoke through his Sports commissioner, Prince Ademola Adeniji-Adele that the state would not run or have a football club like most other states.
For Governor Fashola, such ventures should be left for corporate organisations or wealthy individuals while the government would only provide the enabling environment for those interested running football clubs to do so.
That was the reason behind the renovation of the defective Teslim Balogun stadium to world standard, an edifice that marveled the chiefs of worldâ€™s football governing body, FIFA when they came for the inspection of facilities for the recently concluded FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Apart from the Teslim Balogun stadium, the Lagos state government is carrying out renovation works at the Agege Stadium, venue of matches involving amateur football clubs in the state while the same will be done done for Epe, Badagry and Ikorodu Divisions of the state.
Speaking at a recent function, Governor Fashola recalled that the Teslim Balogun stadium which used to be known as UAC Stadium has produced some of the greatest footballers in the country like Henry Nwosu and Haruna Ilerika.
He said that like was done to the Teslim Stadium,Â â€œThe same is happening in Agege Stadium which is being completed to the same standard and we are expanding to Ikorodu, Epe, Badagry to mention but a fewâ€.
â€œWe cannot finish fixing all the problems but we will set very strong standards and benchmarks upon which the life of this state can be built for the futureâ€, the Governor also said.
Apart from the established football clubs, be them Professionals or amateurs, Governor Fashola believes that these facilities, which should be located in every local council of the state, should also be accessible to schools and other organisations engaged in grass-root sports development, as they are the foundation for the future.
According to him, â€œWe must recognize that open parks, small and medium sports complexes in every Local Government Area in Nigeria will be the theatres for the preparation and development of the undoubted talent that lies within our large population.
It must be the conscious and deliberate policy of Government and private sector to build these parks and sports complexes and ensure that they are used only for sporting purposes.â€
Apart from building of sport facilities, the Lagos State government is teeming up with some organisations, like the telecom firm, MTN, in the area of grass-root football development through the street soccer initiative, an avenue for empowering the youths. Apart from football, a basketball competition has also been organised in partnership with another firm, all not only to provide the nursery for future national teams, but also to get the youths out of the streets.
He told sports journalists that efforts are being made by the government to ensure that the state reclaims her position as the leader in sports in the country. This is a departure from the norm where states poach already established athletes to compete and win medals at the biennial National Sports Festival.
The governor who erudite cleric, Rev Moses Iloh described as the â€™best governor ever to come out of this countryâ€™ at a recent function re-emphasized the need to employ Sports as a veritable tool for social engineering and general development in Lagos.
Fashola who hinted that his administration intends to use the muscle, authority and legitimacy of government as a very strong platform to unleash the potentials of sports in the state reminded the senior national team, the Super Eagles of the importance Nigerians attached to football and urged them to uplift that unifying spirit the country tied to soccer.
He added that it is in the interest of every society seeking true growth to raise sportsmen who would compete very fiercely but fairly to win and accept the verdict of the umpire irrespective of how adverse it is.
In his words: â€œSports is not just a necessary implement and building block for educational advancement, it also represents a lot more to major building block of modern civilizationâ€.