Felix Owolabi, a former player of the defunct Green Eagles, says Nigeria’s economy can be driven to enviable heights with the right investment in sports.
Owolabi stated this on Friday in Ibadan during his lecture titled “Sports Can Change the World” and delivered as part of an Under-15 table tennis competition.
The event was organised in honour of Waheed Ekun, winner of the first table tennis gold medal at the maiden National Sports Festival (NSF) at Lagos in 1973.
Owolabi cited as an example a country like Saudi Arabia which has renewed its commitment to turn sports into a business.
He said, with such good investment and commitment, the sports industry in Nigeria can also be propelled into a major contributor to the nation’s economy.
“Saudi Arabia is fast becoming the world’s next sports destination aside from being a holy pilgrimage land. Choice of Saudi Arabia by great football players is shifting world attention to the country and in turn developing its economy,” the former left flank forward said.
The ex-international added that aside sports being a therapy to calm nerves after trying times it could build strong unity and mend crack walls among different ethnic backgrounds.
“Football clubs like Rangers International of Enugu were set up to mend fences after the then Civil War in Nigeria to build the much-needed unity in the country at the time,” he pointed out.
Speaking in the same vein, President-General of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Sulaiman Ajewole, said part of their programmes was to sponsor and support different sports activities in Ibadanland.
“This will draw youths away from engaging in negative activities that can jeopardise their future,” he said.
Speaking also, Waheed Ekun, who was being celebrated, commended the commitment of his friends in organising a table tennis competition to celebrate 50 years of his emergence as gold medalist.
The celebrant, who is also a former CCII National Secretary, said the competition would encourage young table tennis players to be more committed to excelling in the game.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that selected students from different schools in Ibadan participated in the competition.
At the end of the competition, Ayomide Ajibola of Abadina College at University of Ibadan emerged as winner in the male category.
Fathia Yekeen of Holy Trinity Grammar School emerged winner of the competition’s female category.(NAN)