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Bye bye Eko 2012••• Welcome Eket 2012

By Paul Bassey
Eket 2012?

Yes Eket 2012….will get back to that.

For now, let me join millions of sports followers all over the country in wishing fare well to Eko 2012, the 18th National Sports Festival that was officially brought to an end yesterday.

For the next two years until we gather in Calabar in 2014,Lagoswill be the talk in sports circles. There are those who believe this has been the best festival ever and Dr Kweku Tandoh, secretary of the LOC for Lagos is in this category although he will quickly add “…..I am not saying so because I am one of the organizers”

Step out those who have constantly rated the festival low from the point of accommodation, feeding and adequacy of infrastructure. You must have read about the excess chlorine that postponed the swimming event, the flood light failure that punctuated the soccer semi final penalty shoot out, the suspect officiating that ruled the boxing bouts……

Permit me to wonder howLagosgot through the transportation challenge that gave me nightmares as the count down to the festival started. Nowhere did I read that any athlete or official was late to his or her event or assignment.

SuspendLagosfor a while and let us talk about the state that imported a foreigner to be able to win three gold medals. The change of names and veiled identity that warranted the fielding of ineligible athletes, the borrowed hockey sticks that could not guarantee victory and the protests marches that forced the hands of officials to pay denied allowances.

Eko 2012 for me will be that games that proved that you can still use sports to forge unity and this came the minute the Lagos Governor proclaimed that Lagos was not hosting to win…….not at all cost

Governor Fashola has vehemently refused the floating of a professional football club in Lagos because he believes in the principle of development that is why I am surprised that Lagos did not cart away all the boxing medals.

The Lagos boxing experiment is worthy of emulation, a veritable grass root experiment and very consistent at that, one that has pitched Lagos boxers against some international opponents…..

Over a year ago, Lagos appointed Ann Agumana former national female assistant coach to tinker with a female team and she went about the duty with diligence. Was I surprised that they won the soccer gold without conceding a goal. That is a classical result of planning to succeed.

Eko 2012 is a triumph for team Delta one that has been very consistent thanks to the availability of infrastructure and continuity in the sports leadership of the state. Delta state is one of the few states that can at the drop of a hat, host a continental competition without batting an eye lid. I hear a world athletics championship is on the cards early next year.

I felicitate with Team Akwa Ibom who despite the absence of commensurate infrastructure has always held her own. It was a shame to hear that Akwa Ibom had to go to Cross River to train for the festival.

Happy that Governor Godswill Akpabio has vowed to redeem all that with the opening of the Olympic sized Uyo stadium and other sports infrastructure dotted round the state, next year.

Eko 2012 is that games that brought us hope of a future for our sports. Share with me a personal experience. I had gone to the National Stadium to cheer Team Akwa Ibom at the commencement of the athletics event only to be told that some students who had qualified for the final of the 12th Akwa Ibom State/NNPC/MPN Schools Athletics Championship were in Lagos to represent Akwa Ibom, but that one of them on getting to Lagos defected to the Bayelsa camp! How this could happen, I do not understand.

On December 15  on the burning tracks of Eket stadium, Mobil Producing Nigeria proud twelve consecutive years sponsor of the event will once more pull out the trumpets and blow its song of good corporate sponsorship advantage the youths ofNigeria.

Apart from the muscular support of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria, ( AFN ) the Akwa Ibom schools Championship prides itself with the physical presence of seven sports ministers and two ministers of education and this year will not be an exception. Minister Bolaji Abdullahi an apostle of grass root discovery of talents has thrown his weight behind the championship and is readjusting his programme accordingly.

Eket 2012 is the future of our sports. Every year, Eket 2012 throws up budding and potential talents who are denied commensurate exposure by officials who will rather import foreigners for the purpose of winning ephemeral glory than develop their own.

Starting from Saturday, graduates of Eket can now look forward to opportunities of displaying their stuff on national stage and from there go on to reap stardom and fame advantageNigeria.

ThanksLagosand bye bye. Welcome Eket.


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