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By Kolawole Bello For years, the Maracana Sports complex in Ajegunle, Lagos State's Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Council area, has been grassl...

By Kolawole Bello

For years, the Maracana Sports complex in Ajegunle, Lagos State's Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Council area, has been grassless and surrounded by shanties. But, with the support to Yemi Idowu, a former director at Sterling Bank PLC with an unwavering love for grassroots sports, the location now has 19 pitches, as well as table tennis, martial arts, and relaxation centers.

The newly-built Maracana's facilities and infrastructure were put to the test around 5 months ago with the South West U-13 football championships, and the turnout was phenomenal.

Eight medium and ten mini-Astroturf football grounds have been constructed, but construction on the international grade football pitch, which will be commissioned later this year, is now completed.

The football grounds can also host seven-a-side football matches, and this is the first time Lagos has 19 football pitches in the same place.

“I’m very happy and fulfilled today. We were aiming for a capacity of 128 teams and maximum of 3000 kids but we ended up having over 4000. So, in one location that is phenomenal and everybody is very happy,” an elated Idowu told Newsmen.

The proprietor of Nath Boys Sports Club, on the other hand, stated that he was not attempting to do it alone, and that the Lagos State Governor Mr. Babajide Sanwoolu granted his assent, which expedited the entire process.

While Yemi Idowu has not disclosed how much his foundation, the Nathaniel Idowu Foundation, has invested in the project thus far, many analysts believe that over five billion naira has been committed. This is by far the greatest single investment in grassroots sports development made by a private citizen in recent years, and Yemi Idowu deserves to be commended.

Yemi Idowu has been actively involved in grassroot sports development and has supported the growth of football at all levels for over two decades. His football team, Nath Boys FC, is well-known for developing global superstars such as Wilfred Ndidi of English Premier League club Leicester City FC, among many others.

The success of this initiative has taught us several things, one of which is the importance of the private sector in sports finance and development. The government should focus its role to providing an enabling environment and building effective legal and regulatory frameworks that will encourage private capital to stream into grassroots sports development.

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