By MONSURU OLOWOOPEJO
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos state Thursday received the UEFA Champions League Trophy, even as he urged African continent to tap into the opportunities the game of football present.
The governor added that tapping into the benefits of football would help the continent grow its economy and alleviate poverty.
Fashola who spoke after receiving the trophy at the State House, Ikeja as part of the ongoing trophy tour in Lagos, said “millions of children on the streets can benefit from the enterprise the game of football brings, and that opportunities abound in the round leather game, which has become a major economic contributor to global development.”
(L-R) Heineken Ambassador, Mr Ruud Gullit, Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola and Nigeria International Football Legend, Mr Sunday Oliseh at the presentation of the UEFA Champions League Trophy to the Governor at Alausa, Lagos on Thursday.
Among those at the presentation include former Super Eagles players, Austin Jay Jay Okocha and Sunday Oliseh, former European Footballer of the Year, Ruud Gullit and top management of Heineken, sponsors of the UEFA Champions League football competition.
The governor continued “We must take benefit of the power of football as a tool for growing economy and for alleviating poverty. We can take millions of kids off the streets, we can take millions of people off the streets through jobs in stadia, stewards, food vendors, transportation, jersey manufacturing, and so on”.
He said that one of the lessons of the success of the UEFA Champions League and the followership it has gained across the world is what the continent could tap into to boost the followership of African football club competitions.
According to him “Can we improve the sponsorship of the African Champions League, can we increase television rights, pay offs, and so on. It’s pretty in our hands all to do, we have all of the big brands here, we have the television coverage now, the internet and media reach is increasing”.
Fashola commended the sponsors of the trophy tour for the opportunity for football lovers to catch a close glimpse of the trophy, an initiative he said can inspire young people to dream big and achieve their goals.
“This is a rare opportunity for Lagosians to make contact with the trophy which symbolizes many long nights of engagements and passion in Nigerian homes and communities and I will like to thank most especially Ruud Gullit who has been a wonderful ambassador of the game in his playing days and also off the pitch, I hope your commitment will continue to inspire many young people in the area of sports and football especially,” he said.
Fashola also urged the organizers of the tour to create a forum to allow school children in the state get an opportunity to feel the trophy before the tour ends saying such will be more defining for them”.
He said the state government on its part has in the past invited sportsmen who have achieved in their chosen career to run academies and sports clinics to inspire young pupils, expressing willingness to do same in future.
Gullit, a two time winner of the UEFA Champions League, while unveiling the trophy with the Governor said it was his first visit to Nigeria, just as he commended the country for producing excellent football players in the past.