The recent efforts by a non-profit organisation, the Aliyu Bello Charity Foundation, to rejuvenate and bring back the glory of football competition in public primary schools by organising the maiden Nasarawa State U-13 football championship should be seen as the right step in the right direction.
In what may seem to many as salvation from on high, Hon Aliyu Bello, grassroots mobiliser and philanthropist, founder of the Aliyu Bello Charity Foundation, decided to detour from his known activity of supporting the educational pursuit of the children of the less privileged in the society, to financing and supporting the organisation of the state’s first ever U-13 football competition where the 13 local government areas of Nasarawa state were earmarked to participate.
Bello, who doubles as the state secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), left no one in doubt as to his zeal and commitment to rejuvenate sporting competition among primary and secondary schools across Nasarawa state. His first major assignment then was to assemble a crack team that will constitute the committee that will assist him bring to fruition his desire to organize the maiden Nasarawa State U-13 football championship.
Hon Aliyu Bello devoted his time to consult critical stakeholders from the state where he shared his vision to organize the football competition amongst primary school pupils in the state, seeking for their support towards making the dream a reality.
This saw the organising committee transverse the length and breadth of the state and even Abuja to meet prominent sons of the state with a view to soliciting their support to host the first ever U-13 football competition in the state.
It was indeed a successful outing as starting from Governor Abdullahi Sule to his deputy, Dr Emmanuel Akabe, including Senator Ahmed Aliyu Wadada, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, heads of various ministries, departments and agencies in the state and Abuja, pledged to support the endeavour.
After meticulous preparations which saw the organisers expend stupendous amount of time and resources, the maiden Nasarawa State U-13 football championship kicked off on May 22, 2023, with 11 out of the 13 local government areas on ground to participate in the one-week encounter. The opening and finals of the championship were duly incorporated into the schedule of activities marking the second term inauguration of Governor Sule and his deputy.
In a speech before the kick-off of the finals of the championship between Kokona and Wamba local governments areas at the Federal University of Lafia, Aliyu Bello restated that the essence of the competition is to address the frequent losses suffered by the country and state in various sporting engagement locally and internationally.
“We have been getting it right since the era of schools sports. Players like Daniel Amokachi, Rashidi Yekini, Samson Siasia, Tijani Babangida, Sani Adamu and a host of others were discovered during schools sports.
“That is why I don’t want to only educate them on knowledge only, I want to educate them on physical and mental alertness. If we continue to educate them and we know that football is now an investment, we should also invest on talents so that they can pursue their career in football,” he said.
In order to further harness talents to be discovered during the competition, Aliyu Bello announced plans by the foundation to establish a football academy, the first of its kind in Nasarawa state.
The organiser of the competition expressed optimism that Governor Sule, alongside Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, his friend Senator Ahmed Aliyu Wadada, will be able to reach out to clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool to invest in Nasarawa state, as according to him, sports is now big investment.
Governor Sule said organising is the best step to take in order for the state to have a formidable team made up of indigenes of the state. “And we must have a Nasarawa United that will comprise people from the first to the last people who live in Nasarawa state, people who have the love of Nasarawa state, people who have the commitment rather than those that are coming in to look for money.”
In a dinner organized at the Taal Conference Hotel to mark the end of the competition and also celebrate this year’s Children’s Day with the participants, the organisers announced various mouthwatering prizes for the participating teams and individuals.
At the event, attended by prominent stakeholders and lovers of sports, the winning team from Wamba LGA carted away the trophy and a whooping N500,000. The first and second runner-ups being Kokona and Lafia received trophies and N350,000 and N200,000, respectively. Keffi placed fourth with N100,000.
Other prizes splashed on the participants included the best player, most valuable player and highest goal scorer got N30,000 each. The fair play team received N100,000. The ruling APC in the state, in a show of solidarity, announced separate prizes of N250, 000, N200,000 and N100,000 for winners, first and second runner-ups, respectively.
Ali Abare is a member of the organising committee for the maiden Nasarawa State U-13 Football Championship.