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*says international matches certain to resume in Abuja as pitch now has world standard paspalum grass

*reiterates govt commitment to fix nation’s stadia through public-private partnerships

By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

International football games can now resume at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja following the completion of renovation works at the ground, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Chief Sunday Dare, has said.

The Minister, who stated this during the official handover of the refurbished mainbowl of the stadium to the Federal Government by Dangote Group of Companies, reiterated the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration to the regular maintenance of all stadia in the country in line with international best practices.

According to him, the MKO Abiola stadium was renovated under the Adopt-a-Pitch Initiative which aims at exploring private partnerships to enhance the development of sports facilities.

He said, “It is a thing of joy to have this stadium come back to life. It is an iconic stadium. It is a national stadium. Today, we are standing on the latest grass technology when it comes to football pitches across the world. This is something exactly like what we will see in Qatar 2022 World Cup.

“So, I am extremely happy today that our plans as a ministry and as a federal government has come to fruition. Our expectations without an iota of doubt is that the national teams will play at the national stadium. That is the global standard, and it will not be different with our country.”

The Minister lauded the contractor and the Dangote Group for completing the project in record time, despite constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We thank Alh. Aliko Dangote for opening his doors to us, and accepting to adopt the Moshood Abiola Stadium when we came up with our ‘Adopt-a-Pitch’ proposal. We salute his commitment that culminated in the completion of the project today, inclusive of maintenance for at least two years,” he stated.

Speaking also, Dangote Group’s ED, Stakeholder Management and Corporate Communications, Mansur Ahmed, said the project was part of the company’s corporate social responsibility.

He assured that the company will also ensure the regular maintenance of the MKO Abiola National Stadium for maximum efficiency.

“Our commitment is to work with the ministry to make sure that this particular facility remains of international standard,” Ahmed added.

On his part, Adedeji Adesoji, the Executive Director of Aron Nigeria Limited, the contractor which handled the stadium’s renovation, disclosed that his firm will oversee the process of preserving the major sports asset in good condition for the next two years.

Adesoji added that beyond the Platinum TE Paspalum regrassing work that was done on the pitch, new digital scoreboards were also installed at the stadium; stressing that they were all Video Assistant Referee (VAR) compliant.

Earlier, the Special Adviser to the President on Sports, a former Nigerian International, Daniel Amokachi eulogised the Minister for his foresight towards finding an innovative means to fix the dilapidated pitch.

Moreover, he charged the Dangote Group to consider extending the period of maintenance beyond two years, stating that after expending $1m to renovate the facility, long-term maintenance was key.

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