A Southwest regional football tournament is in the offing following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on Thursday by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission and the Southwest Football Forum.
The document was signed at the Cocoa House, Ibadan headquarters of the DAWN commission by its Acting Director General, Mr Seye Oyeleye and the chairman of the forum, Mr Seyi Akinwumi.
According to Akinwumi, the new partnership could lead to establishment of a new league to be christened Odu’a League as well as tournaments such as Western Nigeria Governors’ cup.
Oyeleye who addressed the stakeholders, said the initiative was part of the process of moving football forward in Southwest Nigeria and creating opportunities for youngsters to develop their talents and engage more youths in sports to reduce unemployment.
He added that the commission had the approval of the six governors of Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Ekiti to start the project at their last meeting in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital last month.
Oyeleye bemoaned the current situation where many young talents in the region are wasting away due to lack of opportunities to utilize their gifts for local, regional and national recognition.
According to him, Western Nigeria produced many of the best footballers and sportsmen and women in the past while the region struggles today in the world of sports due to dwindled opportunities.
The Acting DG described the regional sports project as a tool for regional integration, pointing out that the commission believes that the entire value chain of the sports initiative can provide up to one million direct and indirect job opportunities.
“We are starting with football which is the most popular sport. It is the process of reclaiming of our lost glory as a region. And, we won’t look back.” Oyeleye said.
The chairman of the Southwest Football Forum, Barr. Seyi Akinwumi, explained that the forum was established in 2015 to enable footballers, coaches, football administrators and other related stakeholders in the football industry in Southwest to come together to support one another. He added that the forum also aimed at allowing members work together to improve football in the region.
Akinwumi said the forum, whose members include known names in the football industry such as Chief Taiwo Ogunjobi, would go into a lot of groundwork that will make its tournaments succeed and also explore all opportunities for football development in the region.
Ogunjobi, who is a former Secretary, Nigeria Football Association, hailed the new initiative, saying it is one of the best things that can happen to footballing in Nigeria. He said regional tournaments would offer opportunities for young talents to grow beyond their immediate locality.
The Oyo State Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, Barr. Yomi Oke and other top civil servants in sports ministries across Southwest states were present at the signing ceremony.