THE Executive Chairman, Imo State Sports Commission, Chief Fan Ndubuoke, has charged athletes, fans and stakeholders in the sporting sector to key into the REBUILD IMO project of the governor, His Excellency Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha to help hasten his plans of reviving sports in the state and push for more sporting excellence in the country at large.
Speaking at his inaugural meeting with the former management and staff of the defunct Sports Council and Sports Ministry at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Ndubuoke declared that it is “a new dawn for sports in the state” as he calls for all hands to be on deck to return Imo to her rightful place in the league of top flight sporting states in the country.
“We all know where sports has been in Imo in the last eight years. Certainly, it is not a place we all are proud of. Sports in Imo has been in the doldrums. Indeed, it was relegated to the background. This sorry state of sports and the sad narrative that it attracts have to change”, he noted.
Ndubuoke recalled how Grasshoppers Handball Club of Owerri which once ruled Africa in women categories went into oblivion just as Heartland Football Club was saved from going on relegation by the eleventh hour intervention of Gov. Ihedioha. But for that proactive step taken by the governor, the club would have tasted relegation twice in three seasons.
The sports boss decried the state of sports facilities in Imo before Ihedioha’s administration came on board, noting that it scared away investors, sponsors and even athletes and coaches who moved out in droves and preferred to represent other states.
“It is very sad and unfortunate to observe that the best athletes and coaches representing other top sporting states are from Imo. This is so given the treatment meted out to them and of course the fact that there are no facilities to train with here.
“But thankfully, Imo now has a sports loving governor who has not only awarded contracts for the renovation and rehabilitation of the Dan Anyiam Stadium and the Grasshoppers Handball Stadium but has taken a bold step towards ensuring that each of the 27 Local Government Areas have a befitting sports complex. In addition, His Excellency is already making moves through the Sports Commission to return all Imo athletes and coaches representing other states back to the state.
“In the light of this, we as a Sports Commission have set our target on a three-point agenda. First, to return to the grassroots and academicals where we hope to discover, nurture and manage athletes to achieve greater feats for themselves, Imo State and the country in general. Secondly, to embark on aggressive marketing and sponsorship drive which will support and boost our plan of establishing tournaments and competitions from the U-15 categories across major sports which the state has comparative advantages and thirdly, to train and retrain coaches for optimum performance which will attract rewards, recognition and awards on individual basis”.
Ndubuoke however, warned that rewards and recognition will be given to deserving persons. He therefore calls for total dedication to work as there won’t be room for idlers, truants and nonchalant athletes and officials.
“We at the board level of the Commission are not here to witch-hunt anyone. We are not here to throw people into the labour market. But we would be very firm and decisive in our actions. We won’t hesitate to show those who want to pull us down or backwards the exit doors. He noted that Governor Ihedioha was committed to uniting Imo people true sports. Needless reminding us all that old things have passed away and behold all things have become new. There is no more Sports Council and there is no more Sports Ministry.
“It should be our resolve to join hands in the Rebuild Imo project by contributing our quota individually and as a Sports Commission in this regard.. This will start and manifest with the 5th National Youth Games holding in Ilorin, Kwara State which our contingent must excel in given the level of preparation so far and the support they are getting from His Excellency.
“Indeed, it is a new beginning for sports in Imo and we are all going to drive the process. We already have the financial and moral support from His Excellency. Perhaps what is required of us is dedication and focus. You are all welcome on board this flight that is taking off smoothly to land on the pinnacle of sporting excellence and glory.”