Ex International Augustine Eguavoen and Etim Esin have commended Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for sponsoring the Under-17 Football Tournament for youth in the region, saying new talents who would make the nation proud have been spotted.
The old stars, who made the observations at the opening of the tournament in Ikot Ekpene Stadium, Akwa Ibom State on Sunday, also described Sport as a-one stop programme that can take youth off the streets and guarantee peace in the Country.
Speaking to journalists on the event, Eguavoen, who is the Super Eagles Interim Technical Adviser said, “This is wonderful. The future belongs to the young ones. It is a welcome development. Organising a tournament like this in this region is worth commending.
“This is an opportunity for us to see the future stars. It should not be a one-off thing. I’ve seen quite a number of good players, and as the competition progresses, I’m sure we will see more… I’m not saying that all of them will end up playing for Nigeria but the best here will definitely be given opportunities.”
For the Ex International Tijani Babangida, “It is interesting to see young ones having the opportunity to be able to showcase themselves. Kudos to the organisers who have been able to think about bringing up this kind of tournament.
“It is useful for the youths and something that will take them off the streets. I think it is something very good. We, who are watching are very impressed. I was talking with Coach Eguavoen. Look at the raw talents that are here but we never discovered them.
“There’s the Director of Sports here and we can begin to talk about the National Under-15 to see how we can take some of the boys there. The boys are doing very well and it’s great.”
The National Spokesperson of Ijaw Youth Council, Mr. Ebilade Ekerefe also lauded the organisers of the first ever U-17 football competition in Niger Delta region, adding that football remained a veritable tool for social reengineering, especially now where there are series of crises and insecurity in the country.
“Niger/Delta has been very peaceful and a competition like this will go further to consolidate the peace we are enjoying. Not only that, this is another opportunity to identify and nurture young promising talents in the country.
“And so, as Ijaw Youth Council, we commend and support initiatives like this and we are happy that the Commission (NDDC) had also made commitments to ensure that programmes like these are supported.
“Our clarion call has always been that the Niger/Delta should be developed. Development can come in many forms. Sports development is very key, because when the youths are carried along in the area of sports, it will reduce crime and criminality,” Ekerefe added.
In his remarks on the occasion, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs Ministry, Senator Godswill Akpabio expressed happiness that the youth of the region have embraced peace, and assured that the Ministry would continue to support every initiative aimed at sustaining peace and tranquility in Niger Delta.
Represented by his Chief of Staff, Sir Etekamba Umoren, Senator Akpabio urged the competiting teams to make good use of the tournament by being committed in order to walk themselves to stardom since the competition was watched by who’s in Nigeria football.
His words, “This tournament will not end here… sooner or later, we will start hearing some of these names just like the stars that are here.
“This is just the beginning of your career. You have to show commitment to encourage the Ministry of Niger Delta to continue what they are doing.”
“I’m sure that at the end of this competition, we will have reasons to thank the Minister, Niger/Delta and also thank the NDDC for the sponsorship of this competition.”
Earlier, the Coordinator of the Tournament, Mr John Ekpenyong said the Niger Delta Peace Cup 2021 is sponsored by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in collaboration with the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and is conceived with the main objective of fostering and consolidating the peace and unity that have existed among states and people of the region.
According to Ekpenyong, it envisioned that youth who would be discovered in the course of the event, shall find encouragement and inspiration from the success of the legends like James Etokebe, Daniel Amokachi, Victor Ikpeba, Samson Siasia, Etim Esin, Friday Ekpo, Vincent Enyeama, Austin Okocha, Joseph Yobo, Coach Aniedi Dickson and Coach Charles Bassey among others.
Ekpenyong, who is National President of Grassroots Sports Federation (GRASOF) said that the choice of Akwa Ibom as the host state is due to it strategic position in Nigeria’s socio-economic equation as the largest crude oil bearer as well as being the most peaceful state in the region.
A total of 18 football teams drawn from Nine (9) states making the Niger Delta Region participated in the event. Algon FC of Akwa Ibom and Ekimogun FC of Ondo state played 0-0 draw on the match day 1 watched by the Sole Administrator of NDDC, Effiong Akwa , Publisher of Newsday Newspaper Chief E.O.Isong and some Nigeria football legends among others football fans.