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Uyo stadium: Akpabio’s uncommon gift to the youths

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All roads will November 6 lead to Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital where the nation’s number one citizen, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will be commissioning the ultra modern brand new 30,000 capacity Akwa Ibom international stadium.

Last week, the Akwa Ibom state government via the media showcased the stadium to the world courtesy of a media tour ahead of its commissioning. The state governor, Godswill Obot Akpabio, the uncommon transformer, did the job himself as he took the media and board members of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) round the arena.

The visibly elated governor said he decided to build the world class stadium because of his belief in settling for nothing but the very best, even as he expressed happiness that Uyo is now in a position to host international matches.

In the words of Akpabio: “This stadium is my modest contribution towards the development of our sports. Before I came into government, I used to ask myself questions like what do our leaders see when they go outside Nigeria? If you go outside, you see world class facilities and I felt as a governor I must put those kind of facilities in this state. This informed my embarking on this stadium project. And it also informed our embarking on the construction of two world class five star hotels. One of the hotels, the Hilton is here in Uyo while the other one, Sheraton is in Ikot Ekpene which is just 25 minutes drive from Uyo. What that means is that we can have two countries come here to play in a good stadium and lodge in  very comfortable hotels. We also have two other mini stadia in Uyo and Ikot Ekpene that can serve as training pitches.”

Akpabio told the NFF board members led by Pinnick Amaju that he is formally handing over the arena to them and urged them to make good use of it.

“This stadium is not for Akpabio, it is for the youths of Nigeria, I m handing it over to you, please use it well,” Akpabio told the NFF board members who were all smiles.

Amaju who spoke thereafter said he was taken aback by what he saw, declaring the Uyo stadium as unarguably the best in the whole of West Africa.

“ What I have seen here is awesome. This is unarguably the best stadium in the country today and in the whole of West Africa. It is simply going to be the new home of the Super Eagles and beyond hosting South Africa here on November 19, we are going to return to the stadium in February during the FIFA match free window. We are going to play a grade A friendly here,” Amaju stated.

Continuing the NFF boss said: “Honestly, what Akpabio has done deserve commendation. If we have two or three more of this kind of stadium, we can begin to think of bidding for the World Cup.”

Earlier, the stadium’s project manager, Architect Imeh Ekpo while conducting sports journalists round the magnificent arena disclosed that the stadium has a bullet proof VIP box and a scoreboard that can do virtually anything in the IT world. He further disclosed that the world athletics governing body, IAAF has already certified the stadium to host international athletics events. The stadium has an eight lane tartan track and another six lane warm up track located by the side of the soccer training pitch which is meters away from the stadium main bowl.

Giving a lowdown of the stadium facilities, Ekpo stated: “This stadium has two well furnished dressing rooms for players of the home team and visiting team as well as another for match officials. It has a dope room, a medical centre for doctors and toilet facilities. One level one, there is a VIP lounge and a VVIP lounge on level two. The VVIP lounge is fortified with bullet proof glasses and it can take 90 VVIPs during a game. Note that this stadium is not for soccer alone. We have an eight lane tartan track and we already have IAAF’s certification. I have the letter from IAAF. There is a media tribune that can take over 100 journalists and camera stands where TV journalists can do their job comfortably. What we have here is not just an electronics score board, it’s a video world that can do so many things. The floodlights are not the traditional kind of floodlights that you find in other stadia. The floodlights are under the stadium roof and we

have 300 of them with each having 2000 watts capacity. So, you can pick a grain on the floor when a match is being played at night and the stadium is a beauty to behold at night. This is a stadium that is security compliant. There are several CCTV cameras that makes the arena a no go area for terrorists. Even when you are sending text message on your phone, our cameras will pick you. There is an area for physically challenged sports fans. So, the physically challenged can come here without any hassles. Finally, the pitch is 100 percent natural grass and you can see how lush green it is. We have a sprinkling system that will ensure that the pitch is watered regularly and we have well trained grounds men that will take charge of it.”

Talking about maintenance which is the bane of such modern edifice in the country, the state sports commissioner, Monday Ebong Uko disclosed that a 10-year contract has been signed with Julius Berger, the company that built the arena for its year round maintenance.

Veteran sports journalist Paul Bassey, a son of the soil, who governor Akpabio had earlier given a pat on the back for his efforts in projecting the image of Akwa Ibom state said he is happy Uyo would now be the new Nigerian Mecca of sports.

“With what Gov Akpabio has put in place, Uyo is now the new home of sports in the country. This is to say the least an uncommon feat,” Bassey said.

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