‘NCF wants to build lasting partnerships and relationships’ | The Guardian Nigeria News

His enthusiasm is contagious. Ever since Uyi Akpata took over as chairman of the Nigerian Cricket Federation (NCF), he has done the job as if nothing else mattered. And, in fact, with Akpata, nothing compares to cricket.

The former vice president of the NCF, who is also president of the Edo Cricket Association, is always looking for commitments, alliances that will bring lasting development to the game in which he has participated since his high school studies in the Federal Government. Warri College.

As part of its growth initiatives, the NCF under Akpata has launched a program that will boost infrastructure development across the country and has also put in place an administrative architecture that will lead to seamless execution of Federation projects.

Recently in Lagos, the NCF commissioned the new turf for the Tafawa Balewa Square Oval, which Akpata says has increased the number of premier cricket grounds in the country to seven in just one year.

Akpata said, “Upgrading facilities is a very important part of our program and TBS is very important in this area as it is Nigeria’s frontline facility.”

He added that the latest development has put Lagos on the map with two premier facilities capable of hosting world-class events. The other facility is at the University of Lagos in Akoka.

Reiterating his desire to lead all stakeholders on the new path of growth, Akpata said he strives to build lasting relationships and partnerships.

“We want all our partners in this project because without this support we cannot achieve our goal.

“Cricket is an important tool for social engineering. For example, when we started playing cricket at Edo Boys, Benin, about six years ago, the manager said that absenteeism had dropped to zero Before we arrived, students used to go into the bushes to mess around, but now they come to the cricket ground to play or watch the game.

“In Benin today, there are nearly 500 students watching the league play out on Saturdays. We want to improve our rankings, which is what everyone wants to see and that has to be sustainable.

The NCF’s drive to build lasting relationships, he said, is to engage sponsors, parents and other stakeholders to join development programs, including recruiting grassroots players and nurturing them. equip to become elite stars.

This involves discovering talented youngsters from the schools, following them through the age levels before they progress to the senior national team.

“I can tell you that every person who represents us at the U-19 World Cup is under 19. We follow our players and so no one can come from nowhere to crash into the system.

“Before you came to the Youth Games, we had to follow you from your school certificates to the PWC U-17 Championship. We capture them with their parents and their schools.

Akpata’s dream is to make cricket the second favorite sport of Nigerians. This can only happen, he said, if the game is structured in such a way that fans come together to watch the sport at all levels.

“We want to use Edo as a model for growth. The Edo model was deliberate because its success will attract sponsors to the game.

“Already, Lagos wants to replicate the women’s league we started in Edo, just like the NCF wants to partner with the CCC league in Lagos and take it to the whole country.

“There is no reason why the North cannot have its own League. The South East is also planning its own competition. It is a gradual process, which requires input from every stakeholder to be successful.

Regarding the development of modern facilities, Akpata said the NCF cannot promise to build grounds and other facilities for states and clubs, “but we will support anyone who wants to do so.

“We are happy that this is spreading. We are overwhelmed with development initiatives from stakeholders across the country. He revealed that the federation is planning a program that will inspire talented youngsters to play cricket and prepare them to become professionals.

“We plan to put our elite players on salary, to turn them into professionals as a stepping stone.

“We have a governance structure that ensures we are objective in reporting the number of people we train. The numbers must be verifiable to help us develop the sport properly. What I did was get everyone with good intentions to come and help grow the game.”

One of the major problems facing sport in Nigeria is lack of funds. Besides football, many other games are struggling to meet their development needs due to insufficient funding.

While football enjoys many sponsors due to its mass appeal, less popular sports like cricket are forced to seek funding to meet their needs.

It’s no surprise, then, that funding is another area Akpata wants to change the narrative. The former international believes sponsors will rush to play cricket if they see a clear path to progress. He adds that his team has consulted with potential partners to ensure cricket reaches a stage where investors will rely on the sport to reach a wide audience.

“Everyone knows what the International Cricket Council (ICC) gives us as a grant. It’s less than 25%. 100 of our expenses. We actually don’t rely on the ICC grant in our planning,” he said, adding, “We talk to a few people, but they need to see that the game is run properly.

“We have a strong competitions and sponsors committee that has started meeting with sponsors. The beauty of it all is that we have an open administration that is ready to answer any sponsor’s question.

“Most businesses in Nigeria support cricket elsewhere, but they don’t in Nigeria. We work hard to make sure they see us as attractive as those other countries.

Apart from building the game from the ground up, Akpata said the NCF also tries to put national teams in the best condition for international competitions through bilateral competitions inside and outside the country.

“We have a two-way women’s championship, which started with the last tip. This year, six to eight countries will come to compete in the championship for a whole week. We therefore need the support of sponsors to make it a success. I’m excited about the future of the game.

“In Zamfara, we have the first lady of the state as our main supporter and she is involved in the cricket program among the displaced people.”

Akpata explained that the NCF is paying attention to women’s cricket as it has the potential to drive the growth of the sport, adding, “It’s easier for us to have more female players than male players over the next five years. Women’s cricket in Nigeria is the future of the game.”

He also revealed that the federation wants to build on the recent successes of the youth teams, adding that the NCF believes that the growth in youth level should hurt the senior squad.

“Some of the boys who went to Rwanda for the U-17 World Cup held the ball for the first time five years ago. We lost through inexperience because we could have beaten Uganda who eventually won the chopped off.

“Our average age in Rwanda was about six or seven years younger than other teams. Although we didn’t do very well, we didn’t play cricket during the COVID lockdown. Now some players from other countries want to come to Nigeria to play in our league. It will help develop the game here.

The projection of the NCF, according to Akpata, is that the recent program introduced by the national team coach, Asanka Gurusinha, will give new impetus to the development of the sport, as well as create jobs for football workers.

“In Edo State, there are more than 50 people employed by the game, including gardeners. This is the most important work as the investment in the field exceeds 25 million naira.

“We need at least five dedicated gardeners to maintain each plot. We have pockets of all these things everywhere. There is a Displaced Persons Camp in Edo State which will field a team in the Edo Secondary Schools League. We had a Christmas competition there and we had over 500 boys in attendance as they all wanted to play and get the t-shirts and packs given to the players.

“I have seen the Head Coach template, which details the regular training of elite and grassroots teams. He is the head coach and director of the high performance center. As a coach and also an administrator , he knows everything we need and how to get it.There is a coaching model for everyone that he has developed.

“Wherever he goes, all the coaches in the region come to train with him. He has sessions ready every Monday morning with coaches which helps with our Technical Officials certification.

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Cricket is an important tool for social engineering. For example, when we started playing cricket at Edo Boys, Benin, about six years ago, the manager said absenteeism had dropped to zero. Before we came, students used to go into the bushes to mess around, but now they come to the cricket ground to play or watch the match.