By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja
For his giant strides in developing grassroots football in Nigeria, the Executive board of Benue State Football Association (BSFA) has honoured the 1st Vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Barr. Seyi Akinwunmi.
The honour came with an award tagged, ‘Father of Nigeria Grassroots Football’ presented to him by the BSFA Chairperson, Hon. Chief (Mrs) Margret Icheen, during the closing ceremony of the 2022 Ratels/Benue state League, championed by Ratels Sports Development Foundation, RSDF.
In her remarks, Icheen said that then state FA would continually support the Lagos-based football administrator who is also the chairman of Youth football development of NFF.
“I sincerely appreciate Barr. Seyi for all he does for the growth and development of Nigerian football especially in Benue state. It is our honour bestow on you this award as the father of Grassroots football in Nigeria.
“We will continue to support you now and always because you have always been there for us and everything good for football in this country,” she said.
The Benue FA boss also expressed appreciation to the sponsor of this programme Barrister Paul Edeh for pulling his resources towards the actualisation of this noble objective of football growth and development, youth empowerment, employment generation, health and social mobilisation.
Responding, Barr. Akinwunmi, who doubles as the chairman of Lagos State Football Association, acknowledged the honour done to him and assured of his readiness to do more.
He said, “First of all I would like to say well done to the entire football family of Benue State for their support for their State FA over the past few years even in the face of the dearth of funds.
“In thanking the Benue FA, I will like to reserve special praise for the amazon who is the Chairman of the FA, she is someone you all should be proud of as she has represented you well at the National level and despite being the only woman in a sphere currently dominated by men, she has been able to stand toe to toe with us all on any issue she believes in.”
On why he has special interest in grassroots football development, Barr. Akinwunmi said, “Grassroots football is the womb of football in the country, it is from here that football development is birthed. Therefore competitions like this one need to be encouraged across the country and all
“State Football Associations need to be empowered to do even more than the herculean task they already carry out.
“An investment of time and/or money in football is an investment in our children, an investment in hope for the indigent child, an investment in peace and integration within the community and within the country, an investment in the future of Nigerian Football and the future our dear beloved country.”
Earlier, the President of RSDF, Barr. Paul Edeh, while eulogising the doggedness of BSFA Chairperson and her entire board in developing football, called on the state government to revive the Governor’s Cup competition which was last held in 2017.
He said, “In the past, most of our stars were discovered from the grassroots as against today’s concentration on the elite. We can still go back to make amends. The board of the state football association has continued to make remarkable difference in putting Benue on the front burner of football development in Nigeria.
“Indeed, Benue state can be the hub of football development in the country if we continue to pull more effort. I therefore call on Benue sons and daughters not to allow sports to go extinct in the state.
“I want to urge the governor of Benue State his Excellency Mr. Samuel Ortom to host Governors Cup before the end of his tenure. Hosting a competition of this nature apart from serving as a platform to discover young talents, it will be a good parting gift to the people of the state.”
The Benue State FA also honoured other deserving individuals, just as the association received accolades and special recognition award from other reputable organisations including Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, Benue State chapter.
Meanwhile, Faith Hills FC of Makurdi emerged as champions of the 2022 edition of the Ratels / Benue state league after beating recording a 3-1 win over Abu Edoh FC Obagaji of Agatu LGA.
The third place match between Elite FC Ugba, Logo LGA and Ultimate FC of Makurdi ended 4-3 on penalties in favour of the latter after regulation time pitched both sides 1-1.
On his part, the Benue State Director of Sports, Comrade Philip Ter Nongu, who represented the Commissioner of Youth and Sports Development Barr. Teryima Nguher while reeling out the enormous benefits of the just concluded competition, thundered, “Government can develop Sports alone, we need more people like Barr. Edeh in our state.”