*Super Eagles is always welcome to Port Harcourt
Hon Boma Iyayi is the Sports Commissioner in Rivers State. He spoke about the challenges of his ministry and what to expect from the state and expressed his displeasure at the failure of the nation to stage the National Sports Festival since 2012, he spoke with Olayinka Elebute of www.gongnews.net
It’s been a wonderful time since you became the Commissioner for Sports in Rivers State. What has been the secret and what have you done to make Rivers United what they’re presently?
If you say what have I done, you probably believing I have magic here. No! You must give kudos to the Governor of Rivers state, Barrister Nyesom Wike. Without him we can’t be where we are now. It’s not easy for a Governor to fund a professional football team 100% in the circumstance we are now. Coupled with the fact that there are other contending needs for the state but he still wants sports to thrive in the state. So we must give him that commendation and congratulate him for what we’ve achieved so far.
Rivers at 50. There are many things coming up. What is sports giving the state to celebrate this anniversary?
For us as a people, its a milestone for us to attain 50 years as a state. Coupled with the struggles of our fore fathers to make sure we have a state of ours. We’re very happy, we want to show the world our heritage, our hospitality. Basically it’s exciting to know that sports is part of the activities that will herald the celebration of the anniversary. I know the committee have put alot of activities together. We’ll see how it goes from there, anything that has to do with sports and bring people to the venue.
Were you involved in sports while growing up, why the special interest in sports?
I have a passion for sports, that’s not a doubt. As a child I started supporting Sharks football club from age 11. Even without knowledge of my parents I was going to the stadium. So, it’s been a long while I carved the passion for myself. So, it’s nothing new. Nobody goes to school to learn sports. If you know a little bit about administration you should be able to sort out yourself anywhere you find yourself.
Looking at the state, Rivers State there’s one peculiar place, people don’t come out to watch football. What have you done specifically to bring people back to stadium?
You see, when you have a good brand, it will sell itself. The Rivers state Governor has been able to reposition Rivers United FC of Port Harcourt. Remember last year there was a merger of Sharks and Dolphin football clubs into one. So, we’ve been able to rebrand Rivers United FC to a stage where everyone wants to associate with it. That’s why you see people returning to the stadium.
We’re doing well in the league and planned to do well in the CAF competition before we fell to Al-Merriekh FC of Sudan. We went to Spain to prepare for the season, coupled with the fact that Nigerian football is witnessing a lot of changes. You see fans coming back to the stadium and we appreciate it.
What are you doing for your Basketball team to make them a cynosure of all eyes in their league?
We’re doing everything for all our teams. We make sure that everything team gets the same advantage. We’re not a ministry that concentrates on football only. We’re into wrestling, swimming. Recently, I was at the handball Under-18 championship. We’re doing everything to make sure sports thrive well in the state. Because that’s the only thing that can take the youths out of the streets.
National Sports festival has not taken place for years now, are you disappointed about that?
It’s a big disappointment to Nigeria that a sporting festival as huge as the national sports festival can not be organised for some years now. But for us, we’re ready whenever they call us. We’ll put our team together. And Rivers State will come out tops.
What about possibility of your state hosting the National Sports festival?
We’re not going to host even though we’ve the facilities. Let other states host and see how it is. But we’re not saying because we’re not hosting it must hold in Calabar. If Calabar is not ready, they can move it to Abuja. Abuja has all the facilities, put them together and that’s it. But it depends on the ministry of sports whatever they like to do.
How soon do you think we can see the Super Eagles playing again in Port Harcourt?
Well, I don’t know. It depends on the Nigeria Football Federation whatever they like, they should do. If they want to come over to Port-Harcourt they know that the environment is good and we have always bring them success and good results.